Far-seeing program benefits community
Geoff Shields - Staff Writer
The CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) Eye Van arrived in Sioux Lookout and set up at the Meno Ya Win Health Centre last Thursday and Friday. The facility was available to people suffering from sight related problems.
The 48 foot trailer is designed to provide critical eye care to remote areas of northern Ontario where these types of services are not normally available. It is a fully equipped medical eye care clinic which includes reception and waiting areas, a vision screening area, and a doctor examination room, with special features that include a reinforced floor and a hydraulic leveling system that allows for minor surgery to be performed on site, and a state-of-the-art SLT laser for the treatment of glaucoma.
Established in 1972, the program was based on a concept of a travelling clinic developed in 1971 by Dr. William Hunter and Ross Purse, Director of CNIB’s Ontario Division and was designed in partnership with the Ontario Medical Association, as well as many community partners, after consultation with doctors and CNIB staff.
From March to November each year 25-30 ophthalmologists, assisted by two CNIB assistants, travel to 30 remote communities in northern Ontario to provide crucial eye care that is not readily available there.
The van is currently staffed by Doctor Mark Bariciak, assisted by Registered Practical Nurses (RPN) Shelley Stoddard and Kelly Bowland, assisted by local volunteers from the Lions Club.
“So far it’s going just fine. It’s my third year of involvement and we always enjoy Sioux Lookout, both the surroundings and the beautiful people,” Stoddard said.
Monique Pilkington has been involved in the project since 1991. She is the Regional Director for CNIB Ontario-North and oversees the eye van. She spoke about the benefits and achievements of the program. “Our patients tell us the number one benefit of the eye van service is that it is convenient in terms of addressing their vision health needs. Service is offered close to home so they don’t have to travel, saving time and money.
“The goal of the CNIB Eye Van program is to prevent blindness in remote underserviced communities in Northern Ontario where ophthalmologists are not available, through early diagnosis and treatment of eye disease. The CNIB Eye Van provides a complete examination of ocular health. This includes vision screening, eye pressures, field of vision, and eye movement. It may include minor surgical procedures and laser treatments for different types of glaucoma and post-cataract surgery.”
She continued, “We see individuals of all ages who are experiencing problems with their vision, especially those of medical concern. Referrals to the CNIB Eye Van may be made through family physicians, general practitioners, optometrists, specialists, nurse practitioners, diabetes educators, public health nurses, nursing homes, and First Nations nursing stations.
“The success of the eye van program is, in large part, due to the outstanding community support we receive across the North.
In Sioux Lookout our partners include the Sioux Lookout Lions Club, the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, and Non-Insured Health Benefits, Health Canada. Diabetes education and screening services are provided in partnership with the Northwest LHINs through the Sioux Lookout Diabetes Program.”
“This program is absolutely an amazing service that brings vision health care to people in communities where it is most needed. Thanks to the hundreds of volunteers from the North, CNIB is able to deliver this important prevention of blindness program.”
Olivia Triskle, Registered Nurse and Diabetes Educator with the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Diabetes Program, commented, “I think it’s an amazing concept and a wonderful program. People don’t have to travel, for we give them a service. We have to look at the elders in our community and it seems that travel is the main issue because they can’t travel, so bringing a service to them is a wonderful idea.”
Former Lions Club President Rhonda Konrad stated, “On behalf of the Lions Club, it is a pleasure to be involved in such a wonderful service and we will continue to support the program to the best of our ability.”