Series of legislative bills will improve the state’s outbreak response
Nearing the end of the legislative session, Illinois Senate Deputy Minority Leader Sue Rezin (R – Morris) renewed her call today to pass a series of legislative bills she introduced last year in response to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home. The legislation would address Governor Pritzker’s failure to implement critical recommendations from the Illinois Auditor General’s Performance Audit of the Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak at the Quincy Veterans’ Home, a report the Governor received three years ago this month.
The 2019 audit called for a timely response for on-site assistance by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), improved communications between IDPH and Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) personnel, and the implementation of all CDC recommendations following a confirmed outbreak (Audit Report Pages IX and X). The Tetra Tech report received two months after the performance audit identified similar issues across our veterans’ homes. Yet, the Pritzker Administration ignored both reports which led to fatal consequences at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home in November 2020 when thirty-six veterans died, making it the deadliest outbreak at a state-run facility in Illinois history.
Last year, an IDPH contractor admitted the agency’s delayed on-site arrival hurt efforts in controlling the spread of COVID-19, which was later reiterated by the Department of Human Services’ Inspector General when he stated, “If these (Quincy) recommendations had been in place at the time of the outbreak, the outcome would have been better.” Deputy Governor Sol Flores’ testimony also provided conflicting accounts of who was responsible for IDPH waiting nearly two weeks from the outbreak’s start to get on-site, even though she claimed to be coordinating the multi-agency response.
“How many reports must land on Governor Pritzker’s desk before he takes the safety of our veterans seriously,” stated Senator Rezin. “It took the Pritzker Administration 11-days to arrive on-site in LaSalle, and it could still take the same number of days today. The Governor’s lax approach toward improving the state’s outbreak response time and care for our veterans is not the type of leadership he pledged as a candidate.”
Two of Senator Rezin’s bills address how Illinois prepares for and responds to outbreaks, while the third one strengthens the powers of the Inspector General when conducting state investigations.
- Senate Bill 3170: Sets a timetable for when IDPH should conduct an on-site visit after being notified of an outbreak.
- Senate Bill 1471: Requires facilities licensed and operated by the State to conduct outbreak preparedness drills.
- Senate Bill 1445: Provides the Inspector General subpoena powers to ensure cooperation with state investigations after former Pritzker political appointee and IDVA Director Linda Chapa LaVia refused to cooperate with the Inspector General’s investigation at IDVA.
“While IDVA Acting Director Terry Prince has been addressing the internal problems existing within the agency, we cannot ignore the fact the state’s mismanagement of the outbreak spanned across multiple state agencies to the Governor’s Office,” continued Senator Rezin. “Therefore, we must put these policies and procedures into state law, ensuring a proper response is undertaken, no matter the people in charge. I am asking Governor Pritzker to publicly support these bills and call for their passage before the end of the session. Doing so will honor the obligation we have to our veterans and their families by solidifying into law the state’s responsibility to show up when veterans need them the most.”
Under HR 62, the Illinois Auditor General is currently conducting a performance audit of the State’s response to the management of the COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home.