Eye Van finishing its Manitoulin Island rounds this week

The Eye Van was stationed in Gore Bay last week as part of its three-community visit to Manitoulin Island, last week. In photo left is Dr. Nazemi Feriba, Eye Van driver A.J. Johnston, Jossy Jose, ophthalmology assistant, Ryan Williams ophthalmology technician, resident Dr. Seema Emami, and sitting is patient Bobbi-Sue Kells, inside the Eye Van.

GORE BAY—The Vision Loss Rehabilitation Medical Mobile Eye Care Unit, known as the Eye Van, began its three-community visit to Manitoulin Island last week, on its 50th annual tour.

“We have seen 35 patients a day over the four days we have been in Gore Bay,” said Ryan Williams, ophthalmology technician, last week. “Yes, the majority of us on the Eye Van have been part of the whole tour, which started in April.”

The Eye Van staff includes Dr. Nazemi Feriba, Resident Seema Emami, Mr. Williams, Jossy Jose, ophthalmology assistant, and A.J. Johnston.

Ms. Emami praised local doctors for their work in helping to make sure local patients are not developing diabetic retinopathy. “The local doctors are doing a great job of making sure patients aren’t developing diabetic retinopathy, by making sure those patients with diabetes maintain good blood sugar control.”

“We are thrilled to be celebrating the Eye Van’s 50th birthday this year,” said Lisa O’Bonsawin, general manager of the Eye Van. “We are so grateful to the many people including dozens of dedicated ophthalmologists, who have helped keep the Eye Van going strong for all these years. In their own practice, having gone through the pandemic has been challenging, but they have always helped to provide the ongoing service in the North.”

“And we are grateful for all the people in the communities that continue to support the program from the health care providers, Lions clubs, companies like Manitoulin Transport, and the many volunteers who help out every year. The fact that they are making a difference in the lives of others during these challenging times is overwhelming,” said Ms. O’Bonsawin.

Operated by Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada, the Eye Van is a mobile medical clinic that delivers eye care in Northern Ontario communities where ophthalmology services aren’t readily available. With the commitment of 25 participating ophthalmologists, and funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health, the Eye Van travels more than 6,000 kilometres every year to serve nearly 4,500 patients across Northern Ontario.

Established in 1972 as part of the Prevention of Blindness program in partnership with the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the Eye Van started out as a modest camper outfitted with equipment to perform eye exams and provide basic treatment. Today the Eye Van is a full-sized truck-trailer, equipped with the latest medical technology for performing in-depth eye exams and providing a wide array of treatments, including minor eye surgery. It’s also fully wheelchair accessible and outfitted with wi-fi access.

The goal of the Eye Van’s annual tour is to help people in Northern Ontario communities prevent vision loss and improve their eye health through early detection and treatment of eye conditions. In fact, nearly 90 percent of patients who visit the Eye Van continue to be monitored by Eye Van ophthalmologists for eye conditions that could lead to blindness, if left untreated.

The Eye Van tour will continue this week in Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, October 3-4, and culminate in Little Current October 5-7.