UPDATE: Senator to file audit in wake of IL Vets Home deaths; 11 families suing state
QUINCY, Ill. (AP) -- Eleven families are suing the state of Illinois for negligence saying multiple deaths caused by a Legionnaires' disease outbreak at a veterans' home were preventable.
They spoke to Chicago's WBEZ , which cites experts calling continued problems over three years at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy "troubling" and "unusual."
A 2015 Legionnaire's outbreak killed 12 people and sickened many others. Several cases have been reported since despite pledges from Gov. Bruce Rauner to fix the problem.
The Republican, who took office in 2015, said in a Wednesday statement that his administration is "deeply concerned" and has taken critical steps, including following Centers for Disease Control guidance.
Still, both of Illinois' Democratic U.S. senators tell WBEZ more should be done. Sen. Dick Durbin wants the facility closed until the water system is safe.
An Illinois Senator is taking legislative action after 12 confirmed veterans died from a Legionnaires' outbreak at a Quincy veterans home.
State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is calling for a full legislative audit into the mismanagement of the Quincy Veterans’ Home that has resulted in deaths of Illinois veterans.
(Read Gov. Rauner's response at the bottom of this story).
A statement was sent to media on Wednesday with the following:
“Our veterans have survived combat zones and foreign conflicts – the greatest dangers they now face should not be living their golden years in a state facility,” Cullerton said. “I’m calling on my colleagues on the Legislative Audit Commission to launch a full examination into the Quincy Veterans’ Home to give the General Assembly a clear picture of the problems we have on hand. The sooner we examine this atrocity, the more quickly we can remedy the situation.”
Cullerton will file legislation Wednesday to quickly begin the audit. He hopes for cooperation from the Illinois Legislative Audit Commission and sent a letter to Co-Chairmen State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) and Representative Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) to drive the audit. Cullerton serves on the bipartisan commission.
“I’m outraged veterans have died on the governor’s watch,” Cullerton said. “Our nation’s heroes have laid their lives on the line to protect our great nation. I cannot believe Governor Rauner’s administration has been thoughtless and ineffective in the care and services our veterans continue to receive.”
Cullerton describes this as another example from the governor’s administration of mismanagement and ineffective usage of state funds and resources.
“Governor Rauner needs to answer for this ongoing epidemic,” Cullerton said. “Governor Rauner has failed our veterans once again. My hope is this thorough examination will result in our nation’s heroes receiving better services and living conditions. They have given us their very best, now it is our duty to make sure they receive the same from us.”
Cullerton served in the Army from 1990 to 1993 as an infantryman and serves on as the Chairman of the Illinois Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee.
He will be calling a hearing soon to address this issue and begin examining the care and services veterans receive at Quincy Veterans Home.
Read the statement below or click here.
Illinois Comptroller tweeted Wednesday:
Shortly before 2:30 p.m., Gov. Bruce Rauner released the following statement regarding the Quincy Veterans' Home:
My administration is deeply concerned about the veterans at the Quincy Veterans' Home. We are committed to ensuring the residents get the care and treatment they deserve in a safe living environment.
“When the first incidence of Legionella occurred in Quincy, six months into my administration, we quickly brought in the Centers for Disease Control and followed their recommendations. The state has implemented a robust and comprehensive water management plan including the construction of a new water management plant and routine testing of the water at the facility.
“The CDC in its most recent report said the remediation is 'aligned with the best practices identified in CDC’s water management toolkit.'
“Legionella is a virus that is a growing concern in the U.S., not just in Illinois. That it has arisen in a place where our bravest and most cherished defenders reside is a tragedy, and we intend to keep working with the CDC at our side to protect our residents.
State Representative Jeanne Ives, an Army veteran and Republican Candidate for Governor, issued the following statement:
“This report is sickening. As a veteran, and the daughter and granddaughter of soldiers, it goes without saying that I understand the depth and significance of the sacrifice our men and women in uniform make. Today, my thoughts are with the families of the 13 people who died in the Illinois Veterans Home. Under Governor Rauner, state services have declined to a such degree that the maintenance of clean facilities to prevent outbreaks of bacterial maladies, like Legionnaires, has become grossly inadequate. In November, Rauner said at Hines VA Hospital, ‘One way we can support our veterans — keep a quality of life and achieve the American dream for themselves and their families — is to have high-quality health care services.’ Yet another betrayal at the hand of Benedict Rauner. Managing state agencies is one of the critical jobs of the Executive Office. Bruce Rauner promised to turn Illinois around. But on his watch, state services have deteriorated. If he can’t manage a 200-acre veterans home with 250 residents, how can he manage the state? Governor Rauner isn’t in charge, because he never took charge. And 13 veterans, or spouses of veterans, are now dead because of it."
Democratic candidate for IL Governor JB Pritzker stated the following on Twitter:
Dr. Erica Jeffries with the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs spoke with KHQA via Skype and stated the following:
"Not only have we built a water management facility from the ground up but we thermally heat and chemically treat all the water that flows throughout the grounds at the Quincy Home. In addition to that we have a whole regimen for water management and water treatment. We also have put in place specific filters that are designed to block legionella bacteria."
Senator Dick Durbin's camp sent a response on Thursday, stating:
What has taken place at the veterans’ home in Quincy since the summer of 2015 is nothing short of a scandal and an insult to the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to fight for our freedoms. I want an admission by Governor Rauner that our state failed these veterans, and we must immediately do something to protect the veterans and spouses who are there to make sure we don’t lose another life. I’ve already asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct a review of VA oversight of nursing home care across the country, including in state veterans homes such as Quincy. And I’m calling for a review of the leadership at Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and Illinois Department of Public Health who let these veterans’ and their families down in the most tragic of ways with Legionnaires’ outbreaks at IVH Quincy three years in a row.