Veterans in North Hempstead no longer have to make the drive to the Northport Veterans Affairs Center for basic health care needs, now that a mobile unit is stationed in the town three days a week.
The van at New Hyde Park’s Clinton G. Martin Park is the result of a petition started in the summer by town officials and veterans to get a permanent, community-based outpatient clinic closer to home.
The mobile unit will have a “tremendous positive impact for our local veterans," Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said at a Monday news conference.
“We are so grateful to our veterans for their service and it’s our responsibility to make sure that they have medical care as close to home as possible,” Bosworth added. “The arrival of the mobile unit, as well as the continued push for a more permanent CBOC [community based outpatient clinic], are steps in the right direction.”
The state-of-the-art mobile van is essentially a doctor’s “examination room on wheels,” said Joann DeMarco, the Northport VA’s outreach coordinator. The handicap-accessible vehicle is equipped with all the traditional diagnostic equipment and curtains to ensure patient privacy.
Local veterans said the unit is a much-needed addition to the VA center network, offering physical therapy, podiatry and primary care services.
Matty Falcone, 81, a former Marine, said he’s “ecstatic” about the mobile unit’s arrival. He said he hopes to get a flu shot there this week.
“We don’t use it, we lose it," he said. "We have to get the word out. … Let’s really try to get a lot of people there," Falcone said, addressing fellow veterans on the town's advisory committee.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y). and other federal representatives such as Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) and Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said they are still committed to the push for a permanent clinic in the town.
New York has 47 community-based outpatient clinics, according to the VA website. Nassau County has two clinics, one each in Valley Stream and East Meadow. There are three clinics in Suffolk County, in Riverhead, Patchogue and Bay Shore. The Northport VA is the only veterans hospital on Long Island.
Rice said that the clinic was addressing a “desperate need.”
“Do you know that there is between Montauk and New York City one VA hospital that services over 100,000 veterans?” Rice said. “The stress that it puts on veterans to have travel 100 miles, 200 miles to get to the nearest VA center. … It’s just wrong.”
Schumer said in a statement that the case for the mobile center was "compelling given the critical mass of veterans here who served to preserve this country’s freedom."
"They deserve efficient access to top-quality health care much closer to home while we continue to make the case for a permanent Community Based Outpatient Clinic," he added.
Robert Bernstein, 79, who served in the Navy for nearly 30 years, said veterans should visit the mobile unit to show the need for a permanent clinic.
“Nobody thought we’d get this far," said Bernstein, of Lake Success, adding veterans will keep pushing for a permanent facility.
Veteran Administration Medical Center's Mobile Unit in North Hempstead
Stationed three days a week in the parking lot at Clinton G. Martin Park, at New Hyde Park Rd. and Marcus Ave.
Monday: physical therapy
Thursday: primary care
Hours vary but appointments begin at 8 a.m.
Staffed with a doctor and nurses
Open to all veterans, not just town residents
Appointments are required; veterans can call (631) 261-4400 ext. 4590 for an appointment and the town's 311 line for additional information.