Dr. Mark Kaufman, chief of staff at the Northport VA...

Dr. Mark Kaufman, chief of staff at the Northport VA Hospital speaks with the media on Friday, May 20, 2016, following the emergency closure of three operating rooms. The operating rooms were closed after aging ventilation equipment began spewing grit into surgical spaces at Long Island's only veterans hospital. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The chief of the medical staff and the director of nursing at the federal Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport have been reassigned to the Bronx, bringing to three the number of shifts in leadership at Long Island’s chief veterans care facility this year.

A spokesman for the VA’s regional office said the reassignments of Dr. Mark Kaufman and Patricia Burke are temporary measures needed to provide expertise as the VA develops new health programs for its facilities in the New York-New Jersey region.

The spokesman, Peter Potter, said such reassignments are typically for a maximum of four months, and that Kaufman and Burke will resume their positions at Northport upon their return.

Early this year, Northport’s top executive, Philip Moschitta, announced his retirement, four months after the House Committee on Veterans Affairs held a field hearing at Northport into a string of problems there.

Foremost among those problems was the discovery of particulate contaminants in ventilation systems that forced the hospital to close its operating rooms for four months in 2016 and to redirect emergency surgeries to VA facilities in Manhattan. The closure, which VA officials imposed without notifying Congress, angered members of the House panel, who grilled VA administrators during the field hearing.

Separately, the VA’s Office of Inspector General said Thursday it is looking into a patient at Northport’s geriatric nursing home choked to death on food this spring.

Potter said the reassignment of the facility’s chief of staff and nursing director are unrelated to any problems at Northport. Potter said that Kaufman, a neurologist, had been sent to a VA office in the Bronx to help organize a telemedicine program. He said Burke was sent to the same office to develop care and case-management procedures for use at VA facilities in the New York region.

“In no way should these changes be viewed as punitive or a demotion by any means,” Potter said in an emailed statement. “They represent VA’s commitment, in Northport and nationally, to our number one priority, our Veterans and their needs.”

Dr. Kaufman refused to comment on his transfer, and referred calls to the facility’s public affairs office. Burke did not return a call for comment Thursday.

Potter said Dr. Cathy M. Cruise, a physician on the Northport staff, will serve as the facility’s temporary chief of staff. He said Sylvia M. Barchue, the associate director for clinical operations at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, will serve as chief of nursing.

After an interim director replaced Moschitta in April, Scott Guermonprez took over as his permanent replacement in late June.

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