CNIB unveils completely new Eye Van for Northern Ontario

Eight-month Northern tour begins on Sunday

It’s a quiet Northern Ontario success story that doesn’t see a lot of accolades, but it goes a long way to helping people see well.

The CNIB’s Medical Mobile Care Unit has been upgraded and will be soon be hitting the highways to bring ophthalmology services to thousands of people in small communities across the North.  The newly upgraded CNIB Eye Van was on display at its home base in Sudbury this week.

“Today is the launch of our fifth-generation eye van,” said Monique Pilkington on Wednesday. She is the national director of the CNIB eye van program and said the CNIB was pleased to show off its latest technology that is installed in the new 53-foot tractor-trailer that takes to the road this Sunday.

The eye van will be touring communities through Northeastern Ontario.  The van is due to arrive in Englehart on Monday. Pilkington said one of the benefits is better online connectivity that will allow doctors working in the van to review test results in real time.  There is also a new electrical generator installed in the van.

The $685,000 program is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, along with assistance from community volunteers and service clubs across the North.

As the mobile clinic tours through the North,   the CNIB has partnered with a group of 25 ophthalmologists to work in the van at various times, on rotation, along with two dedicated nurses.  She said the doctors are able to conduct vision exams, treat eye conditions, perform minor surgeries, and offer much-needed medical advice and information about eye health. Nearly 90 per cent of the patients screened on the CNIB Eye Van are monitored for eye conditions that could lead to blindness, if left untreated, said Pilkington.

“Without this program, people just wouldn’t have access to ophthalmologists. And we know that in a lot of cases, people just would not leave their communities to travel for vision care. And that would mean that a lot of people would lose their vision,” said Pilkington.

“The need is huge. We see over 4,500 people every year in 30 different communities across Northern Ontario,” said Pilkington.

John Roininen, the manager of Northern Health Programs at Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said the eye van is now in its 48th year of operation. “Incredible,” he said.

Roininen said the vital eye care services provided by the van “would very difficult to access otherwise due to the vast distances between the Northern communities and the city-based eye care services.”

He said it was part of the Ministry’s commitment of providing patient care “close to home” through the underserved area program.

“The ministry is pleased to contribute $780,000 to the new eye van, replacing the 25-year-old eye van that had done yeoman service over the years, and to contribute to the ongoing operating (budget) of the eye van program in the amount of $685,000,” he said.

Pilkington said during the Spring, the eye van is usually touring Northeastern Ontario.  During July and August, it moves to service remote communities across Northwestern Ontario. In the fall, the van usually visits communities along the north shore of Lake Superior. The tour is scheduled to end with stops on Manitoulin Island in mid-October.

She said the crew consisting of a driver and two nurses are on the road each year from March through to October. Although most of the treatments require an appointment, she said no one with a serious eye problem is turned away.

“Typically our nurses become Class-AZ truck drivers,” she added, and gave credit to Manitoulin Transport for its driver training program.

The CNIB said it plans to stop in 30 communities this year.

  1. Englehart, March 25-28

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 104, 45 Fourth Ave.

  1. Iroquois Falls, April 1-5

Lions Club Den, 239 Church St.

  1. Cochrane,  April 8-18

Lady Minto Hospital, 241 Eighth St.

  1. Smooth Rock Falls,  April 22-23

SRF Hospital, 107 Kelly Rd.

  1. Kapuskasing,  April 24-May 17

Centre de santé communautaire de Kapuskasing et région 27 Kolb Ave.

  1. Hearst, May 21-June 10

Notre Dame Hospital, 1405 Edward St.

  1. Hornepayne, June 12-14

Community Hospital, 278 Front St.

  1. Longlac, June 17-20

NorWest Community Health Centre, 99 Skinner Ave.

  1. Geraldton, June 24-27

Greenstone Family Health Team, 510 Hogarth Ave. W.

  1. Atikokan, July 8-12

Family Health Team, 101 Zuke Rd.

  1. Fort Frances, July 15-19

Rainycrest Home for the Aged, 550 Osborne St.

  1. Rainy River, July 22-25

Town of Rainy River Garage, 319 Sixth St.

  1. Kenora, July 29-31

Kenora Recreation Centre, 18 Mike Richards Way.

  1. Ear Falls, Aug. 1-2

Community Health Centre/FHT, 25 Spruce St.

  1. Red Lake, Aug. 6-15

Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital, 51 Hwy 105.

  1. Dryden, Aug. 19-21

Regional Health Centre, 58 Goodall St.

  1. Sioux Lookout, Aug. 22-23

Meno-Ya-Win Health Centre, 1 Meno-Ya-Win Way.

  1. Pickle Lake, Aug. 26-27

Community Hall, 14 Koval St.

  1. Ignace, Aug. 29-30

Silver Tops Hall, 300 Pine St.

  1. Nipigon, Sept. 3-4

District Memorial Hospital, 125 Hogan Rd.

  1. Schreiber/Terrace Bay, Sept. 5-6

Schreiber Recreation Centre, 100 Langworthy St.

  1. Manitouwadge, Sept. 9-13

General Hospital, 1 Health Care Cres.

  1. White River, Sept. 16-17

Medical Clinic, 102 Winnipeg St N.

  1. Dubreuilville, Sept. 19-20

Arena, 148A Ave du Parc.

  1. Wawa, Sept. 23-27

Lady Dunn Health Centre, 17 Government Rd.

  1. Chapleau, Sept. 30-Oct. 4

Medical Centre/FHT, 2 Broomhead Rd.

  1. Gore Bay, Oct. 7-11

Lyons Memorial Church, 17 Meredith St.

  1. Mindemoya, Oct. 15-18

Mindemoya Curling Club, 103 Thorne St.

  1. Wikwemikong, Oct. 21-22

Health Centre, 19A Complex Dr.

  1. Little Current, Oct. 23-25

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 177, 15 Vankoughnet St E.


Filed in: Featured, News

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