SUDBURY—The Vision Loss Rehabilitation Medical Mobile Eye Care Unit, known as the Eye Van, will soon visit Manitoulin Island on its annual tour. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the program.
“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’re 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,” stated 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.
One thing that’s never changed is the goal of the Eye Van’s annual tour: 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.
“It’s estimated that around 75 percent of vision loss is preventable and many common eye diseases can be treated if caught early,” said Ms. O’Bonsawin. “The Eye Van is a crucial pathway to vision health for people in communities across northern Ontario, where this kind of care simply isn’t readily accessible.”
Ms. O’Bonsawin said “we are encouraging people to visit their health care provider if they want a referral to the Eye Care Van to make appointments.”
The Eye Van tour will culminate in Little Current, October 5-7, and the Eye Van will also visit Wiikwemkoong from October 3-4 and will be in Gore Bay from September 26-30.