Eye Van will visit Manitoulin communities later this month

The vision loss rehabilitation medical eye care mobile unit, known as the Eye Van, will visit several communities on Manitoulin Island in late September and early October. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the program, which provides eye care in northern Ontario communities where eye care services are not readily available.

SUDBURY—The vision loss rehabilitation medical eye care mobile 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 celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Eye Van this year,” said Lisa O’Bonsawin, Managing Director of the Eye Van. “We are very grateful to the many people, including dozens of dedicated ophthalmologists, who have helped keep the Eye Van in good condition for all these years. In their own practice, getting through the pandemic has been difficult, but they have always helped provide continued service in the North.

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

Operated by Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada, the Eye Van is a mobile medical clinic that provides eye care in Northern Ontario communities where eye care services are not readily available. Thanks to the commitment of 25 participating ophthalmologists and funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health, the Eye Van travels more than 6,000 kilometers each year to serve nearly 4,500 patients in Northern Ontario.

Established in 1972 as part of the Blindness Prevention Program in partnership with the Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the Eye Van began as a modest motorhome equipped with equipment to perform eye exams and provide basic treatments. Today, the Eye Van is a full-size tractor-trailer, equipped with the latest medical technology to perform extensive eye exams and provide a wide range of treatments, including minor eye surgery. It is also fully wheelchair accessible and equipped with wi-fi access.

The goal of Eye Van’s annual tour has never changed: to help people in Northern Ontario communities prevent vision loss and improve their eye health through early detection and treatment of conditions eyepieces. In fact, nearly 90% of patients who visit the Eye Van continue to be seen by Eye Van ophthalmologists for eye conditions that can lead to blindness if left untreated.

“It is estimated that around 75% of vision loss is preventable and many common eye diseases can be treated if detected early,” Ms O’Bonsawin said. “The Eye Van is a crucial pathway to vision health for people in northern Ontario communities, where this type of care is simply not readily available.

Ms O’Bonsawin said ‘we encourage people to see their healthcare provider if they wish to be referred to the Eye Care Van to make an appointment’.

The Eye Van tour will culminate in Little Current, October 5-7, and the Eye Van will also visit Wiikwemkoong October 3-4 and be in Gore Bay September 26-30.

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