CNIB Eye Van truck-trailer to be replaced for 2019 tour

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind Mobile Eye Care Unit is in Gore Bay this week as part of its annual tour of small Northern Ontario municipalities. In photo, left to right, is Rose Jackson, a member of the Gore Bay-Western Manitoulin Lions Club, Jim Ainsworth, driver/patient support with CNIB, Lisa O’Bonsawin, general manager of the CNIB Eye Van, Craig Robinson R.N., and Dr. Steve Arshinoff, medical director of the CNIB Eye Van.

SUDBURY—The CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) Medical Mobile Care Unit will once again serve around 4,500 patients on its annual tour of Northern Ontario. However, this will be the last time the present unit will make the trip, as a new unit will be in place for next year’s tour.

“We have some exciting news, starting on our 2019 tour we will have a new unit in place,” said Lisa O’Bonsawin, general manager of the CNIB Eye Van, earlier this week. “We will have a new truck and trailer on hand, with the trailer being fully accessible-using new technology.”

“We’re very excited with this news,” said Ms. O’Bonsawin, noting the current trailer has been used for the past 15 years while the truck has been used the past 11 years. “The trailer and truck still perform well but we have to look to the future and move forward, and enhance patient care. And this unit is fully accessible which is especially important with the changing demographics across Northern Ontario.”

The Eye Van is in Gore Bay this week (October 15-18) and will be moving on to other locations on Manitoulin Island from there. The Eye Van, “annually visits 30 communities in Northeastern and Northwestern Ontario combined,” pointed out Ms. O’Bonsawin.

Operated by CNIB, the Medical Mobile Care Unit, known as the Eye Van, is a fully equipped, medical mobile eye-care clinic on wheels that travels more than 6,000 kilometres annually to provide service In Northern Ontario. With a commitment of  more than 25 ophthalmologists, the Eye Van services 4,500 patients in 30 remote communities in Northern Ontario.

“Dr. Steve Arshinoff, who is familiar on Manitoulin Island being with the eye van in Mindemoya a couple of years ago, is our medical director for the eye van,” said Ms. O’Bonsawin.

Ophthalmologists conduct vision exams, treat eye conditions, perform minor surgeries and offer medical advice and information about eye health. Nearly 90 percent of the patients screened on the Eye Van are monitored for eye conditions that could lead to blindness, if left untreated.

“Manitoulin Transport continues to be a wonderful supporter of the Eye Van, over its 6,000 kilometres and 30 stops on the tour,” said Ms. O’Bonsawin. “They provide guidance in regards to what is happing on the road, and support. They provide maintenance on the vehicle, and when we find ourselves in a challenging position they know everyone in the communities who can help. From the moment we leave to the end of the tour it is like Manitoulin Transport travels with us.”

“And we have wonderful health care partners and the Lions Clubs on the Island,” said Ms. O’Bonsawin, noting the Eye Van has use of the Lyons Memorial United Church in Gore Bay, Mindemoya Curling Club, Wikwemikong Health Centre and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 177 in Little Current for patients to register to see the ophthalmologist. “We would really like to acknowledge all our partners who play an integral part in our program.”

The Eye Van will be in Mindemoya on October 22-25, at the Wiikwemkoong Health Centre October 29-30 and at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 177 in Little Current, October 31-November 2.