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Schumer: Budget deal could help fix troubled Northport VA

The Northport VA Medical Center, shown Wednesday, April

The Northport VA Medical Center, shown Wednesday, April 12, 2017. Credit: Chuck Fadely

The two-year bipartisan federal budget deal will provide a new influx of cash that could help address problems at the Northport VA center — which recently suspended surgeries because of a failing air conditioner — and other veterans facilities, Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday.

Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said the budget deal’s deadline for passage is March 23, and that he would be “urging the VA to do the upgrade” at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Northport before summer.

“No VA facility should have to halt surgeries for days on end because of known HVAC issues. Not Northport. Not anywhere,” said Schumer (D-N.Y.). “Our brave veterans fought to protect our freedom and so it is our obligation to care for them by making sure they receive the medical care they deserve.”

The deal would increase military and nondefense spending by about $300 million over the next two years. It provides a substantial increase in funding of about $4 billion over two years for VA maintenance, nearly double what is currently allocated annually, Schumer’s office said.

The nearly century-old Northport VA, among the nation’s 170 VA medical centers, has a history of system shutdowns related to its HVAC operations. Newsday previously reported that the most recent Feb. 24 episode shuttered the VA’s operating rooms for nearly a week, forcing 18 patient surgeries to be rescheduled. Last month, an HVAC failure also shut down a 42-bed homeless shelter on the VA’s campus.

Other maintenance problems over the past two years include a ruptured pipe, which required a $12 million replacement, and an HVAC failure, which released metal fragments from vents directly into the operating rooms, resulting in surgeries being canceled for four months.

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