Rauner administration criticized for handling of Illinois Veterans Home Legionnaires' outbreaks: 5 things to know

Illinois Republican Governor Bruce Rauner's administration is facing criticism for the state's handling of three seperate Legionnaires' outbreaks at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, according to investigative report conducted by WBEZ.

Here are five things to know.

1. Fifty-three residents and staff members at the Quincy home contracted Legionnaires' — a virulent form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria — in the summer of 2015. Ultimately, 12 residents died. In the summer of 2016, five more residents contracted the illness, which is transmitted through the inhalation of small droplets of contaminated water. Earlier this year, three more cases of the illness were detected among veterans at the facility. One of those veterans died.

2. Families of 11 deceased veterans are suing the state for negligence, arguing the facility's deteriorating condition led to the spread of Legionnaires'. The legal action also argues the families were not informed of the disease's spread in time to remove their family members from the facility, even though the state knew Legionella was spreading. Some family members have called for the governor to personally offer his condolences on behalf of the state, according to WBEZ.

3. Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Erica Jeffries defended the Rauner administration's handling of the outbreaks in an interview with WBEZ. Ms. Jeffries told WBEZ the department acted on CDC recommendations, upgrading the facility's infrastructure and improving protocols for Legionnaires' detection and treatment.

"What we have not done is remove all the piping and start again," Ms. Jeffries told WBEZ, referencing the home's aging plumbing system. "Short of doing that, we've done everything we possibly could do to ensure the safety of our residents and staff, and we've done everything that the CDC has recommended that we do."

4. Jeffries also told WBEZ the state considered moving residents out of the facility after the 2015 outbreak, but chose not to do so due to the potential strain such an undertaking could place upon frail residents. The department currently has no plans to move residents out of the facility.

5. Some lawmakers, including Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., have called for the facility to be shut down until the water system is safe.

"This has progressed from a disastrous situation, where veterans of the state of Illinois have lost their lives because of contamination in the water supply at the veterans' home in Quincy, to a scandal. I just don't think there's any other word to describe it," Mr. Durbin told WBEZ. "I want an admission by the governor that we have failed these veterans, and we need to do something immediately on an emergency basis to protect those who are there to make sure this never happens again and, if necessary, to replace this facility."

To read the full report from WBEZ, click here.

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