Rauner defends state handling of fatal Legionnaires outbreak at veterans' home

More than a week after he came under fire for the deaths of more than a dozen veterans from Legionnaire's disease, Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke out on Wednesday.

Rauner defended his administration's handling of the problem of Legionnaires in the water at Quincy Veterans' Home in downstate Illinois which has led to 13 deaths since a major outbreak in 2015.

However, are demanding details and accountability.

"If he's in charge he definitely bears responsibility, but you have to ask him if he's in charge," said state Sen. Tom Cullerton, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee.

Cullerton said he hopes to get answers during a hearing next month. The joint Senate and House hearing on the Quincy situation is set for Jan. 9 in Chicago.

"Who knew what, when they knew it, why the families weren't there, what the long term goal is, what the CDC's going to do going forward," Cullerton said.

The governor said since becoming aware of the outbreak in 2015, when 12 veterans died, his administration has taken every possible step, including spending more than $5 million to upgrade the water supply system there. Despite that, in 2016 there were five more cases of Legionnaires, and this past fall three more cases, one fatal.

"We've brought in national experts, we've brought in people from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta," Rauner said. "We've reviewed every step we've taken, every protocol, every possible recommendation. Experts, leading experts from around the country, have said we've done everything we should, everything that's appropriate."

His administration had even considered shutting the facility down but that does not appear to be an option anymore.

"Every medical expert, every medical expert that we have talked about the Quincy Veteran's situation and brought in has said it would be a mistake the shut the facility, it would be a mistake to move those veterans," Rauner said. "They are frail, they are very elderly."

When asked if he would drink the water in Quincy, Rauner replied: "Absolutely."

The governor said the Quincy facility is the only one being tested for the bacteria that causes Legionnaire's disease, but he's ordered his staff to look into what it would take to expand the testing to other facilities around the state.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.