Guest Commentary

We must ensure that Quincy veterans home remains open

Jil Tracy
By ILLINOIS STATE SEN. JIL TRACY
Posted: Jan. 7, 2018 12:20 am Updated: Jan. 7, 2018 12:26 am

The Quincy veterans home opened in 1886, making it the flagship of our state's veterans' facilities. It has been a safe haven for the men and women of our armed services to live, recover and share in a second family within the Quincy community.

The home is beloved in the region, with a dedicated volunteer community group known as the Friends of the Quincy Veterans' Home that acts as the eyes and ears of the home to ensure our veterans there are always receiving the care they deserve. I've visited the home personally for many years and observed the great quality of care the staff provide to the residents.

The recent news stories about the Quincy veterans home and the tragic loss of some of our residents has raised many concerns among the public. Certainly, all of us want to use every precaution to make sure all of our residents living in our facilities get the premium service and care they deserve.

In recent weeks I visited the home and reviewed the present systems and level of care the residents receive. I've also reviewed the timeline of the unfortunate instances in 2015 with local public health officials and gained more knowledge on the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease and its relationship to pneumonia.

I'm far from an expert, but I've learned Legionella is a common bacteria that exists in our environment. I would ask everyone to keep an open mind and not rush to judgment as the 2015 timeline is reviewed in committee hearings. Locally, my constituents are perplexed as to why the sudden attention on an issue that was fully public and in the news years ago.

Back in 2015, I was very impressed and grateful to see the governor's office and the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs take swift action in locating the sites and cause of the Legionella, and sign with a leading water treatment manager to complete improvements as quickly as possible so the home may return to normal operations with minimal disruption.

At present, based on the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the staff has tested the water within the facility every two weeks. On Dec. 19, state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, who is chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, and I toured the facility with the director of nursing and consultants from the home's new water treatment system manager, Phigenics.

With frequent guidance from the CDC, Phigenics implemented a new, advanced water treatment system and walked us through how the technology removes all contamination and the Legionella bacteria. They are highly professional and have far exceeded protocol to ensure the residents are safe and can continue to reside in their home at the facility.

Additionally, I attended the Christmas lunch at the home on Dec. 15. Many of the residents and their families, along with frontline staff, expressed to me that they were very concerned about negative and rash comments from individuals who wish to see the home close.

I have heard nothing but favorable comments from the veteran residents and their families. The frontline staff shared with me how they consider the residents as part of their family. I also recently showed state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Murphysboro, around the home, so he can speak to the improvements as well.

The Quincy veterans home has brought families together for more than a century, and with our help and support, it can remain the cornerstone of our region for many more years to come. We must ensure this facility stays open.

I urge any of my Senate and House colleagues and all who have doubts or concerns about the level of care and safety at this facility to go there and witness firsthand the quality of care our residents receive.

Those who visit are always impressed with the compassionate and talented staff and the contentment of the residents and their families. A visit or a sit-down conversation on this issue with the staff would show a great deal of support for Quincy and one of its most valuable residences.

As the state continues to focus on eliminating any hazards and providing the best patient care, I urge everyone to please focus on the veteran residents and not the politics. To do anything less would be a disservice to those who have sacrificed so much in their service to us.

Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, is Illinois senator of the 47th District.

 

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