New CNIB Eye Van will visit Manitoulin this fall

The CNIB Eye Van sports CNIB Foundation’s new yellow-dominant branding and will be easy to spot as it heads down the road to help those in need.

SUDBURY—The new, updated Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) Eye Van unveiled recently has begun its six-month trip across Northern Ontario, including Manitoulin Island, to serve small communities, and it will feature many new components that patients will welcome.

“We are launching the new Eye Van, which will be leaving for Englehart shortly,” said Lisa O’Bonsawin, general manager of the Eye Van program. “Some of the key features is that there is a new truck-trailer, custom built, and a new van which is longer and on one level, providing a more accessible space for all patients. And patients will have more privacy; with the new private screening room the nurse will be able to provide a health review of the patient and go over test results with patients.”

“The equipment on board has also been improved especially in terms of technological connections and medical equipment and for instance the doctor will be able to call up test results to make a quicker and proper assessment for each patient,” said Ms. O’Bonsawin. “And another thing we are really happy about is that the van has been outfitted with a nice new generator—this will provide seamless transition if there is a power outage, we will be able to continue clinics with no interruptions.”

The van is 15 metres long and is staffed by two nurses and a driver. The team spends approximately six months on the road, riding a van outfitted with all the equipment that one would find in an eye doctor’s (ophthalmologist) office. 

Ms. O’Bonsawin told CBC News that the older version of the Eye Van was a bit smaller and had a “goose neck” in the entrance which impeded some of the van’s patients, especially those with mobility issues.

“We made sure that we built this van similar to how you would build a medical office,” she said. “So the hallways, the room, the mobility, the access for wheelchair patients, the access to all our medical equipment is all available to patients.”
The new van is fully equipped for diagnostics, minor surgical procedures and laser surgeries.

The Eye Van begins its trip in Englehart and finishes in October on Manitoulin Island. The Eye Van is in Englehart March 25-28 and will continue on its tour for this year. It will be in Gore Bay on October 7-11, and Mindemoya from October 15-18, Wiikwemkoong from October 21-22, and Little Current from October 23-25.

Ms. O’Bonsawin explained that funding for the new van came from a one-time grant from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care-Northern Programs division.

“And we continue to receive ongoing support during the building and design of the unit from our wonderful community, Manitoulin Transport helped in this process as did  our ophthalmologists,” continued Ms. O’Bonsawin. “I also want to thank our wonderful volunteers and service clubs that support us so well.”