After a week's stay at the Quincy Veterans Home where 13 have died of Legionnaires disease, Governor Bruce Rauner is vowing big changes. A new housing unit for veterans could lower the risk from Legionella bacteria, which has led to 13 deaths and sickened dozens at the home since 2015.
The governor's political critics, who have called his stay at the veterans home a "stunt", were unimpressed, and pointed out an incongruity in his pledges to both do more while at the same time defending the administration's past response to a problem that's persisted for years.
Sitting alongside Shah and Jeffries during the almost four-hour hearing was Sam Posner, associate director for epidemiological science for the CDC. He told one story about how a resident, Greg, defeated the Governor over and over in Connect 4. In October 2016, an additional veteran died of an illness associated with the disease.
Legionnaires' is a severe form of pneumonia caused by water-borne bacteria which can sicken those who inhale infected vapor. Posner said he's seen cases of Legionella being present in water systems for up to 20 years.
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Testing for legionella isn't required at health facilities, public or private, but if there is a positive test the state requires a water management plan.
He testified before a joint Illinois House-Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Tuesday. She said there are multiple tests per day being done on the water system at Quincy in the aftermath of the outbreak. "Now that we have found cases at our home, it's really our responsibility to monitor the water flow and water quality and in doing so, we continue to find cases".
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said despite being a fiscal hawk, he'd support a capital plan to build a new facility or renovating an aged home.
"Tear it down - there's 210 acres - and build a new facility to make sure that we have start-of-the-art facilities for our veterans going forward". Rauner, who is campaigning on a rollback of July's income tax increase, says he expects a mix of state and federal dollars potentially accompanied by philanthropic support. "I would argue that if we looked for it in other health care facilities, we would find it there too".
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McSweeney is co-sponsoring the bill with Sen. "We need a new, state-of-the-art facility". That money wouldn't come from the General Revenue Fund, he said. That could cost up to $30 million to just update the piping, Jefferies said.
"All of that time spent in that six days was to ensure that before information was released that we knew what we were talking about", Jeffries said.
The recent news stories about the home and the tragic loss of some of our residents has raised many concerns among the public.
The director of the Illinois Department of Public Health says the agency's website has incorrect information about Legionnaires' disease.
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Shah said the important thing in such an emergency is to notify the facility. Quincy home staff were told within 27 minutes and ordered to restrict water usage that "turned the tide on the epidemic".
Rauner also praised staff members for their commitment to the veterans.
Shah added the IDPH website will be corrected because the gestation period is 10 to 12 days.
On Wednesday, Rauner held a press conference to talk about his stay at the veterans home where he ate and slept with residents.
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