CHICAGO (CBS) — Since 2015, 13 veterans have died from a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy. Now, after his weeklong stay at the troubled home, Gov. Bruce Rauner is vowing to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The governor has taken some heat for the response to the outbreak. Now, however, CBS 2 Political Reporter Derrick Blakley reports Rauner received nothing but love while promising change.
In fact, after seven days of visits, chats, card games, shared meals, and even the same medical tests as the residents, Rauner was treated like a conquering hero.
“I wanted to come for myself to see firsthand the nature, the fundamental service in this facility,” Rauner said. “These folks are awesome. These are our heroes.”
Rauner has been under fire for not immediately going public when the 2015 outbreak occurred. It was traced to the home’s water — something the governor is now very familiar with.
“I’ve taken all my showers every day in the showers here. I’ve drunken the water from the sinks, as well,” Rauner said, dismissing critics who labeled his stay as a stunt.
Throughout his stay, he said he learned the home is a beloved place to the veterans who live there. “And let me be crystal clear — I do not support closing this facility. Period.”
Rather, Rauner says he plans to revitalize the 133-year-old institution.
“We will develop a strategic plan to go along with continuous improvement of our water treatment program,” Rauner said, adding that he will work with experts to upgrade and replace the plumbing system with the latest technology and materials.
The Quincy home gets its water from the Mississippi River. The Legionnaires’ outbreaks have occurred in months when summer storms produced tainted runoff. A new source of fresh water may be needed, according to Rauner.
With Sen. Dick Durbin now offering support, it may come to federal dollars to save the venerable facility.