The VA Medical Center at Northport needs a “staggering” $279 million in capital spending to repair leaking roofs, flooding hallways, failing air conditioning units and other items, according to the new chairman of the congressional House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) made the assertion in an April 4 letter to interim Northport director Vincent Immiti, three days after Immiti was named to replace retired director Philip Moschitta.
In the letter, Roe said he based his estimate on an assessment of Northport’s needs that the committee requested during a hearing at Northport last September. That assessment was forwarded to the committee before Moschitta retired April 1.
“This concern is much more wide ranging than the high-profile incidents reported in the media last year,” including contamination that resulted in the hospital shutting down surgeries at the facility for several months, according to the letter.
“The size of the capital improvement and maintenance need, as calculated in the assessment, is staggering,” the Roe letter said.
He said a repair plan prepared by Moschitta, which included eight requests that focused mostly on replacing failing air conditioning equipment in several of Northport’s 47 buildings, “ . . . seem merely to scratch the surface of the facility’s deficiencies.”
Roe also said in the letter that his committee continues to receive complaints that subcontractors doing work at Northport are poorly supervised, lack expertise and do substandard work.
A statement released by Immiti’s office late Monday states: “We received Chairman Roe’s letter today and are committed to looking immediately into the concerns he has raised.”
Bob Reahl, a past Suffolk County commander of the American Legion, said an American Legion committee he was on questioned Northport officials about the state of the facility during a visit a month ago.
Committee members acknowledged the need for physical improvements, including the razing of two buildings that stand opposite the main hospital, but reached the conclusion that the facility is generally well run, Reahl said.
“I’m very satisfied with them,” said Reahl, who says he has received medical care through Northport-run facilities for the past 18 years.
Last year, Northport provided medical and psychiatric services for some 32,000 veterans on Long Island. In addition to its main hospital, the medical center also has clinics in Valley Stream, East Meadow, Bay Shore, Patchogue and Riverhead.
According to the Roe letter, Northport officials are seeking funding for eight major projects as part of its Strategic Capital Investment Planning request for 2017. Those projects include replacing the air handlers and cooling towers at the main hospital buildings, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning units at four other buildings.
Even if all of those projects were to be greenlighted, a host of other problems, including a collapsed drainage system, painted-over water damage and mold growing in critical areas, including a mental health facility, continue to pose hazards, the Roe letter said.
“I remain concerned about deteriorating facilities at the Northport VAMC,” the Roe letter said, “and the resulting health and safety issues they could create for veterans and employees.”