CHICAGO (CBS) — State lawmakers heard testimony about the state’s response to the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy Monday during a hearing.
Some Democrats claim Gov. Bruce Rauner’s team dropped the ball, according to CBS 2 Political Reporter Derrick Blakley.
“Isn’t it ironic that we have people living in that facility who survived a battlefield but they may not survive us?” said State Sen. Sam McCann.
Lawmakers had tough questions for Rauner’s team after four new Legionnaires’ cases were reported in February. 13 veterans have died of the pneumonia-like infection since 2013, prompting Sen. Christine Castro to wonder why a 2016 consultants report that suggested replacing the facility’s water pipes wasn’t followed.
“I still believe that if you replace the piping you would solve a lot of the problem,” she said.
Some state officials said they didn’t replace the pipes because they wanted to first evaluate a new $6 million water treatment system that just came online — but they still don’t believe new piping alone is the answer.
“We would be putting brand new piping in buildings that are 60 and 70-plus years old. Our residents deserve state-of-the-art facilities and that is our long-term plan,” said Erica Jeffries, director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
After a week-long stay at the veterans home in January, Rauner promised action. Now, Jeffries is promising several new buildings as a sustainable solution.
“Our plan, that we will be proposing, will include the demolition of a number of buildings, as we think about the new construction of a longer-term facility,” she said.
But, McCann accused Pubic Health Director Nirav Shah of taking too long to notify Quincy’s staff of the dangers.
“Quit playing to the folks back home. They know that you have failed — they talk to us. You, sir, disgust me,” McCann said.
A task force, which was appointed by Rauner, is expected to unveil a preliminary plan for new buildings at Quincy by the end of the month.