Comptroller calls for action at Quincy veterans home

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QUINCY, Ill. (WAND) – The Illinois comptroller took a visit to a veterans home that has dealt with a deadly disease.

Susana Mendoza joined State Sen. Tom Cullerton (D – Villa Park) and State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D - Aurora)  in a tour of the facility, which has seen 13 people die from Legionnaires’ disease in the last several years. LaVia is chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

The group spent time looking around the Elmore Infirmary, which is home to a basement water system that has seen some changes. The majority of the Legionnaires’ cases happened in that area of the facility. 

The Quincy home also saw several dozen cases of gastrointestinal illness in late March.

Mendoza says she wants to see Illinois leaders act quickly, and with a “comprehensive” plan that costs less than the $265 million changes Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed.

“It seems there is no sense of urgency with this administration to get the job done,” Mendoza said. “Residents of the Quincy Veterans Home, their families and the public at large deserve the unredacted truth about how this administration plans to address this daily threat to the health and safety of veterans and their caregivers.”

She says Rauner did not prioritize funding for the Quincy home when naming priorities for the spring legislative session.

Rep. Sue Scherer (D - Decatur) says there hasn't been enough transparency about a response to the Quincy situation. She has proposed a change that would require the Department of Veterans' affairs to give quarterly reports to state lawmakers about the health of veterans home residents. 

"Our veterans deserve to have the best possible care, but that can't happen if state leaders drag their feet and don't address serious problems, like outbreaks of Legionnaire's disease," continued Scherer.  "I want to know what Rauner knew about the outbreaks, and when he knew it.  With this legislation, our veterans can rest assured knowing that the governor can no longer hide behind this issue, and we will find the truth."

Gov. Rauner's office says it is working hard to find answers. 

"Our administration, in coordination with legislators, local stakeholders, IDPH, IDVA and the CDC, work every day to protect our veterans," spokeswoman Rachel Bold said. "We have laid out specifics on short term solutions that minimize risk, campus expansion opportunities outside the existing water system and budgeted for a new facility at the Quincy Veterans Home that meets the needs of modern veterans."

In the visit, Mendoza met with people in the Quincy community to talk about how to respond to issues at the home.

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