WASHINGTON — A $76 million renovation at the Buffalo VA Medical Center could be in the works soon, thanks to the bipartisan spending bill Congress passed recently, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Wednesday.
The long-laid but previously unfunded plans at the Buffalo VA would include $30 million in renovations to the patient wards; $20 million for a new operating room suite; $13 million for a new emergency room; and another $13 million to improve the hospital's parking ramp and patient entrance.
With approval from VA officials in Washington, those renovations could go ahead as part of the $4 billion in construction funding included in the spending bill for VA capital improvements in the current fiscal year.
A two-year budget bill passed in February calls for an additional $4 billion in building improvements at veterans health facilities in the 2019 fiscal year, too, thereby doubling the chance that the improvements in Buffalo and at other upstate VA facilities will take place soon, said Schumer, a New York Democrat.
“I was proud of the role I played in securing this new federal investment, and now I will work shoulder-to-shoulder with veterans and administrators across New York state to ensure that the facilities that need it most get the funding they deserve," Schumer said.
On a conference call with reporters, Schumer said he will be pushing for the most possible money to go to upstate New York. Once the VA decides how to spend the money, projects can move forward almost immediately, he said.
"They have the plans," Schumer said. "We just need them funded and funded quickly."
Schumer also called on the VA to name a permanent health care system director at the Buffalo facility, which has been operating under acting directors in recent months.
Just last month, the VA Inspector General released a report revealing that in late 2016, hospital personnel failed to try to resuscitate a cardiac arrest victim when they should have tried to save his life. A year earlier, VA officials revealed that 526 patients at the VA hospital could have been put at risk of infection due to improperly cleaned medical scopes.
The hospital's performance would likely improve if the VA would appoint a full-time administrator to run it, Schumer said.
"We need a full-time person," Schumer said. "That builds confidence, it builds continuity, it makes the different parts of the VA to work together well."