The Illinois House and Senate Veterans’ Committees held a joint session this week in Chicago to investigate the continued outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease at the Quincy Veterans Home. Thirteen residents at the home have died from the disease over the past three years, including 12 who died in 2015 and one death last fall- two years after the initial outbreak.
At the hearing, the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, Erica Jeffries, and the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, Nirav Shah, defended the actions undertaken since the onset of the outbreak. Both agency heads said they took immediate steps toward remediation, implemented every protocol suggested by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and ultimately would not have done anything differently.
Legionnaire’s disease can be contracted when people inhale infected water vapor through showers, sinks, and fountains. Since 2015, the state has imposed new treatment protocols and spent nearly $6.4 million on emergency upgrades to the complex’s water treatment system. XXX In December, the CDC released its most recent report on the outbreak noting that Illinois agencies have committed considerable time, effort, and resources to address the problem, but complete eradication of Legionella in any large, complex building water system may not be possible. Director Jeffries said that the water in the facility is now tested more than 3,000 times each month.
“We owe our state’s veterans the best treatment and care possible,” Rep. McAuliffe said. “As the Republican Spokesperson on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I stand ready and willing to work together with those in the General Assembly and our state agencies to find a permanent solution to ensure the health and safety of our veteran’s at the Quincy Home.”
Lawmakers at the hearing suggested a new capitol bill to pay for a complete overhaul of the plumbing at the home and to finance a new facility on the campus to replace one of the older infirmary buildings. Both the Senate and the House will hold additional hearings on the outbreak and the progress being made at the home. In addition, Governor Rauner plans to create a task force dedicated to investigating and remediating the issue.