Dec 20, 2017

Veterans Home Faces Legislative Hearing for Legionella Outbreak

The hearing, scheduled for Jan. 9, will address charges of negligence and the possibility of closing the home

Legionnaires' disease outbreak at Veterans Home leads to legislative hearing

On Jan. 9, the Illinois General Assembly’s two Veterans Affairs Committees will hold a joint legislative hearing regarding the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, Ill. The outbreak has resulted in the death of 13 residents, the illness of more than 60 residents and employees, and 11 lawsuits against the state for negligence.

The timeline, according to WBEZ, began in 2015 when 12 residents died from the initial outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. In response, the state spent nearly $6.4 million on upgrades to the facilities water treatment and assured the public the water was safe. Yet in the summer of 2016, five residents contracted the disease at the home and managed to recover. A year later in the Fall of 2017, three more residents contracted the disease resulting in one death for a total of Legionnaires’ disease-related deaths at the facility in a period of three years.

Regarding the deaths, Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Jeffries said, “We maintain and say that our homes are a place where our veterans come to live, not where they come to die.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found the cause of the outbreaks to be the home’s century old pipe system coated with extensive sedimentation and biofilm. Replacement of the pipe network would cost the state millions of dollars. The bacteria ridden pipes contribute to a low water quality at the home resulting in the disease which can even be inhaled through water vapors in the shower.

While Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration insists the home is safe and should remain open, other officials feel the home should close its doors. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin insists the facility should be closed until the water system is fully safe and Sen. Tom Cullerton, chairman of the Illinois Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee, believes the Rauner administration failed to notify families of residents of the outbreak in a timely manner.