Lawmakers hold hearing on Legionnaires’ outbreak at veterans home

CHICAGO — Illinois House and Senate lawmakers held a hearing on Tuesday regarding the Illinois Veterans Home where several residents died of Legionnaires' Disease.

Thirteen people have died of the disease at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, Ill., since 2015.

There were tough questions for Rauner administration officials on Tuesday about the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, Ill. Lawmakers said they wanted a new plan to protect the veterans.

 

“How much longer and how many people have to die before we say enough is enough?Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Frankfort) said.

The state has spent more than $6 million upgrading the home’s water treatment system and implementing routine testing for Legonella.

But the issue remains. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control tested 48 samples from the facility. One came back positive.

On Tuesday, VA Director Erica Jeffries testified that replacing the pipes and plumbing at the 130-year-old home would cost $30 million. That’s significantly less than the $500 million she estimated earlier.

But some lawmakers wondered whether the home is just too old.

Fiscal conservative Representative David McSweeney said he would support state or federal funds to put beds in another building at the Quincy site or finishing a Chicago VA project.

“Build a new facility in Quincy on the current site, use Kent if that works or look at other alternatives while we’re at it. Let’s fund Chicago. I’ll vote for that bill,” he said.

The Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health Nirav D. Shah faced tough questions about why during the 2015 Legionella outbreak, the state waited six days before notifying the public.

“The actions that we took were quick, coordinated and decisive and I stand by them because they worked,” Shah said.

There were fireworks. Senator Sam McCann said Shah should have called Gov. Rauner on his cellphone to tell him there was an outbreak.

“You need to get the numbers. You need to get the cellphone numbers, the Governor needs to take your call, you both need to do you jobs. Quite frankly, sir, you should resign and if you don’t, the Governor for should demand your resignation,” Sam McCann (R-Carlinville) said.

Gov. Rauner has been staying at the home for a nearly week.  He is expected to stay at the Quincy home for one more night. His office said he is meeting with everybody there about their safety.