Senator calls for closure of veterans home, site of 13 Legionnaire's deaths

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Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has asked the GAO to investigate veterans homes' safety across the country.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has asked the GAO to investigate veterans homes' safety across the country.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is calling for the closure of an Illinois Veterans Home, where 13 residents have died of Legionnaire's disease since 2015.

Durbin has characterized ongoing problems at the Quincy facility as a “scandal” and said it should be closed until its century-old plumbing system can be permanently fixed or the state builds a new home.

Durbin told McKnight's in a statement Thursday that he wants an admission by Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) that the state “failed these veterans.”

Earlier this week, families of 11 victims came forward to speak with radio station WBEZ after bringing a negligence claim against the state in connection with deaths at the facility about five hours south of Chicago.

Over the last three years, at least 61 residents and staff have been sickened by Legionnaire's, a waterborne form of pneumonia that can be treated with antibiotics is recognized quickly. Nineteen percent of Legionnaire's case are related to long-term care.

The most recent incident at the Illinois Veterans Home-Quincy was this fall, when three people fell ill and the coroner ruled the infection contributed to the death of an 88-year-old Korean War veteran.

“We must immediately do something to protect the veterans and spouses who are there to make sure we don't lose another life,” Durbin said. “I've already asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct a review of VA oversight of nursing home care across the country, including in state veterans homes such as Quincy. And I'm calling for a review of the leadership at Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and Illinois Department of Public Health who let these veterans' and their families down in the most tragic of ways with Legionnaires' outbreaks at IVH Quincy three years in a row.”

State officials said they have no plans to move residents and after $64 million spent on a series of CDC-recommended upgrades, the facility has the “cleanest water in the state.”