State lawmakers plan a full investigation in January into the 13 deaths at the Quincy Veterans home in downstate Illinois, a state lawmaker told NBC 5.
Those deaths that happened since 2015 are tied to Legionnaires’ disease at the state-owned facility.
State Sen. Tom Cullerton confirmed that on Jan. 9 there will be a joint hearing in Chicago, bringing together the Senate and House Veteran Affairs Committees.
The Quincy deaths are quickly becoming a political issue for not only the Governor's race, but also the Attorney General's contest, as former Governor Pat Quinn is a candidate for the job that Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced she would be leaving at the end of her term
Quinn promised a new veteran’s home in Chicago eight years ago, but it is still not completed. Quinn has spoken out for veterans for years, but there were new questions this week amid the controversy over whether or not he is to blame for the incomplete project.
When asked about the controversy, Quinn directed the blame at current Governor Bruce Rauner.
“When I left office it was on target, we had a groundbreaking, and we went forward,” Quinn said. “I got the funding for it and I think that it’s very important that there would be a veteran’s home in the Chicago area.”
Although Quinn defended his handling of the slow-moving project, his opponents in the race still have questions that they want answered.
“You’ve got to keep your promises,” State Sen. Kwame Raoul said. “The bottom line is, we have to make an investment to take care of our veterans.”
Quinn first promised the home in his 2009 State of the State speech and mentioned it again in 2013. Work wasn’t started on the project until 2014, just two months before he lost in his bid for re-election, and since then the project came to a stop.
The state’s budget stalemate contributed to the laggard pace of the project, but Gov. Rauner’s spokesman says that the project is “finally moving forward.”
The issue re-emerged after a WBEZ report exposed the deaths of 13 people due to a series of outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease at a veterans’ home in downstate Quincy. Some officials are calling for the facility to be shut down all together, and some, including gubernatorial candidates J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy, are calling for an investigation into Governor Rauner’s handling of the situation.
State Senator Tom Cullerton is calling for an audit of the facility, and he announced that he will call a hearing to examine care practices at the home.
Governor Rauner’s administration defended its handling of the situation, saying that they “quickly brought in the Centers for Disease Control and followed their recommendations.”