Eye Van patients should expect a telehealth check-in this year

The CNIB Eye Van paused its Northern Ontario tour in 2020 because of COVID-19. Its patients will interface with the service through phone calls instead.

MANITOULIN – Late October on Manitoulin typically always includes a visit from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) Eye Van, but like so many other things in 2020, CNIB announced the cancellation of the medical mobile unit mid-summer.

The Eye Van is operated by Vision Loss Rehabilitation, the CNIB Foundation’s affiliate organization. The Eye Van, which was established in 1972, is a fully equipped, medical mobile eye-care clinic on wheels that travels more than 6,000 kilometres annually to provide service to 4,500 patients in Northern Ontario in 30 communities, including stops on Manitoulin which are typically manned with volunteers from local Lions Clubs, which has vision as one of their top mandates.

“During this unprecedented time, we will continue work with local health care partners and offer telepractice care to ensure patients continue to have access to eye care,” Lisa O’Bonsawin, general manager of the Eye Van, said. “The telepractice patient care program ensures that patients of the Eye Van are connected with the appropriate services to best support their individual needs.”

Ms. O’Bonsawin said those who were scheduled to have a visit from one of the Eye Van’s ophthalmologists this year will be receiving a phone call to perform a “telehealth wellness check.” Should a concern be noted, or if they choose, Eye Van patients will have access to Vision Loss Rehabilitation Ontario (VLRO)’s virtual care services from the comfort and safety of home, or in an urgent situation, they are able to access VLRO’s emergency essential services which provides urgent response to people with vision loss.

“Every patient on our roster we are calling,” Ms. O’Bonsawin reiterated. “And we have had patients reach out to us, and feel free to do so.”

If anyone would like to reach out with questions or concerns about their vision, Ms. O’Bonsawin encourages patients to give her a call at 1-888-675-2468 ext. 5446.

“Thank you to all our community partners for their continued support and we look forward to seeing everyone in 2021,” Ms. O’Bonsawin said, also thanking the Eye Van’s team of ophthalmologists for their ongoing commitment to the program.