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Northport VA hospital needs immediate care

The Northport VA Medical Center, shown Wednesday, April

The Northport VA Medical Center, shown Wednesday, April 12, 2017, needs $279 million in capital spending on the huge campus, which dates to the 1920's. This is one of two buildings which have been condemned and will cost $10 million alone to tear down due to asbestos contamination. Credit: Chuck Fadely

Even as the Department of Veterans Affairs endured waves of scandal nationally from a cover-up to hide unacceptable wait times and serious care problems, veterans and their advocates on Long Island said the medical center in Northport has provided good service and care. It does not, though, boast a modern, safe and properly maintained facility, and that must be corrected. The erosion of the buildings and mechanical systems has begun to affect the care, and if the hospital isn’t renovated, the problems will get only worse.

On Friday, recently confirmed Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that, “We’ve now focused on veterans that need care right away,” including people who have urgent care needs. The Northport VA itself certainly fits that description.

The chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs wrote the Northport VA’s director last month, saying the hospital needs a “staggering” $279 million in work. Problems include leaky roofs, a collapsed drainage system, demolition of condemned buildings, asbestos removal, water damage and mold. The center also requires replacement of failing air conditioning and ventilation units of the kind that led to the closure of Northport’s surgical operating rooms in 2016 for several months.

It’s good news that President Donald Trump’s proposed budget includes a 6 percent increase to the VA’s $75 billion budget. The question is how much of that will survive the budget process and be allocated to refurbish Northport. Local GOP Reps. Lee Zeldin and Peter King need to make sure the needed money comes through.

The Northport VA and its five clinics across the Island served 32,000 veterans last year. The center is a crucial, respected part of the community, but it needs immediate treatment. — The editorial board