Vets Battle Frustration, Inconvenience With Manhattan VA Hospital Still Closed
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It’s been three-and-a-half months since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the area and there is still a city hospital that remains closed.
Veterans who use a Manhattan medical center are wondering why the long delay?
He’s a 90-year-old World War II vet with a chest full of medals, including five Bronze Stars for bravery and a Purple Heart after being wounded while on Omaha Beach for D-Day.
But these days, Walter Morton is battling frustration and inconvenience.
“For me, it’s a hassle,” Morton told CBS 2′s Sean Hennessey on Friday.
A hassle because the Manhattan VA Hospital is still closed from Superstorm Sandy damage.
Instead of going to one facility for his needs, the lower Manhattan vet is going to four facilities, including a VA hospital in Brooklyn.
“Brooklyn takes me about an hour-and-a-half because I have to take the subway and then a bus,” Morton said.
Some veterans have started a petition to speed up the process.
“When I was going to the Manhattan VA, everything was in one facility,” said Vietnam veteran Walter Baldaccini.
But on Friday, Baldaccini did a two-hour trek to the Brooklyn VA.
“It’s a much longer trip. It takes three trains and a bus,” he said.
The VA said its Manhattan facility suffered catastrophic damage after five feet of water destroyed it’s elevators, fire suppression system and medical equipment.
“So everything was under water and completely unsalvageable,” said medical center director Martina Parauda.
Parauda said contractors were inside working non-stop, but bristled at the question of why NYU Langone and Bellevue hospitals have re-opened after suffering Sandy damage, while the VA is still shut down.
“Until it is completely safe and we can insure the safety of all veterans and employees, we will not go back in there,” said Parauda.
Morton, meanwhile, said he is still grateful for the care he’s receiving. His prescriptions come by mail and he speaks to his doctor by phone.
In the meantime, Baldaccini is packing his patience and perspective.
“Hurricane Sandy devastated a lot of people in the area and their needs are greater than mine right now,” he said.
The VA said it hopes to begin outpatient treatment by next month. As for inpatient treatment, it is hoping that resumes by summertime.
While the Manhattan facility is closed, the VA said it is still providing bus service to the other VA hospitals in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
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