Illinois House to probe Pritzker failure to stop 36 veterans’ home deaths

Illinois House to probe Pritzker failure to stop 36 veterans’ home deaths

The Pritzker Administration failed to respond despite 11 days of reports about a COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home, resulting in 36 deaths, according to a state audit. Now Illinois House members plan to probe the failings.

Pritzker Administration public health leaders had 11 days of notices about a COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home, but failed to “identify and respond to the seriousness of the outbreak” as 36 residents eventually died, according to an audit by Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino.

Now Illinois House members want answers about the deadly lapse in November 2020. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker blasted his predecessor, Gov. Bruce Rauner, for a delayed response to an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in 2015 at the state’s Quincy veterans’ home that killed 13 residents.

“If at Quincy, three days was too long for IDPH to get on site, what is nearly two weeks,” said state Rep. Dave Welter, R-Morrisay. “So, this is fatal mismanagement by the Pritzker administration.”

Illinois Department of Public Health administrators were updated daily on rising cases, with 32 of the 36 victims testing positive for COVID-19 before the agency responded on Nov. 12, Mautino’s audit states.

The audit also disproved claims in an earlier report by the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General. DHS concluded the leader of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs failed to sound the alarm about the outbreak, but the audit found detailed emails to IDPH containing outbreak information that the IDPH director then used in her daily briefings.

The DHS report also claimed there was an “absence of any standard operating procedures in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak” for state veterans’ homes. Mautino’s audit found hundreds of pages detailing guidelines recommended by IDPH and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were upset by the bureaucratic failures.

Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, whose district includes the LaSalle home, said he’s “frustrated and disappointed there wasn’t better coordination between state agencies to recognize and address the increasingly serious infection rate at LaSalle as it was happening.”

When Pritzker was a candidate in 2018, he was debating Rauner and went after him for the Quincy veterans’ deaths. Pritzker said those veterans should have been a priority and would be under his leadership.

“It’s our obligation to defend our veterans’ and keep them safe,” Pritzker said.

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