QUINCY — The Illinois General Assembly's two veterans committees are scheduled to hold a joint legislative hearing to address the Legionnaires' disease outbreak at a veterans home.
Thirteen residents at the Illinois Veterans Home have died of the disease over the past three years, including 12 who died in 2015 and one whose death was reported in October.
State Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, toured the home in Quincy on Tuesday to prepare for the hearing, The Quincy Herald-Whig reported. It'll be held in Chicago on Jan. 9.
"If I'm going to hold legislative hearings, I have to know what I'm talking about, and I have to see the site physically for myself," Cullerton said.
Cullerton, who is the chairman of the Illinois Senate's Veterans Affairs Committee, said while he's concerned that the disease is still an issue at the home, he wants to keep the facility in operation. He said he would like to see it grow to serve more veterans.
"The flagship of our veterans facilities needs to stay open, needs to serve residents as best it can," Cullerton said.
He said the hearing will focus on the reoccurrence of the disease at the home and that will include a variety of agencies and individuals with insight into the outbreak.
Cullerton said it's important for the General Assembly to get to the root of the issue and "find out exactly what was known and who knew what."
Cullerton also blamed Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration of not solving the issue at the home completely.
"He (Rauner) came out in 2016 saying it's fixed, it's done, we're good, problem solved. Yet here we are almost exactly a year later and we've got more cases," Cullerton said. "Obviously, if the governor is not going to be able to fix it, the Legislature has to step in and do his job for him."
Rauner said that the legionella bacterium is common in water supplies throughout Illinois. He said "it's something we need to stay vigilant about."
"Our team there in the Quincy Veterans Home has been very aggressive, taken every appropriate step to keep over veterans safe and healthy," Rauner said.