In 2015, 53 residents of the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy, Illinois were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia that is most often deadly when it is contracted within a long-term health care environment. 12 of these veterans died, prompting widespread public attention to the condition of decrepit V.A. facilities across the nation.
Our law firm represented victims of this initial outbreak. Contact our law firm about Legionnaires’ disease lawsuits.
Now Legionnaires’ disease has returned, for a third time, to the Quincy facility, despite a $5 million rehabilitation of its aged infrastructure. Even after a $2.3 million water treatment plant and delivery system were put in place in June 2016, 4 residents caught the potentially fatal disease in the subsequent months. Yesterday, on October 18th, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs reported that two new cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been diagnosed. One of these victims, a resident with other serious underlying medical conditions, died last week.
“It’s not a massive surprise that we would see cases because the monitoring for the last two years since we defined this problem has been immense … When people display symptoms, they’re immediately tested for (legionella).”Adams County Health Administrator Jerrod Welch
The water in the rooms of the two most recent victims and in the surrounding areas has been tested; so far, these tests have proven negative for Legionella pneumonia bacteria. Investigators are flummoxed as to where these two residents caught the illness, since onsite testing has been intense since the deadly 2015 outbreak.
500 different areas of the facility are tested for Legionella each month; water tests have consistently shown disinfectant levels consistent with EPA recommendations.
“Our clinical indications (from the two cases) are not matching with our water results … We have had very good water quality results for this whole year. In fact, none of our sites on campus are testing positive.” – IVH Administrator Troy Culbertson
IVH officials are partnering with the Adams County Health Department, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to try to determine whether the victims caught Legionnaires’ disease at the facility campus itself, or whether they were exposed to Legionella elsewhere in the Quincy community.
Legionnaires’ Disease at Veteran Homes
Veteran Administration facilities have been associated with several Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks in recent years. Other fatalities have occurred at the Nevada State Veterans Home in Boulder City, Colorado, the H.J. Heinz Veterans Affairs hospital campus in O’Hara, Pennsylvania, a VA hospital in Oakland, Pennsylvania, and a VA hospital in Brockton, Massachusetts. These cases arose despite the fact that VHA Directive 1061 required all Medical Facility Directors to “establish a medical facility HCA LD prevention policy which specifies responsibilities and incorporates written HCA LD prevention plans no later than February 2, 2015.”
“Given the various factors and complexities associated with LD (e.g., host susceptibility, pathogen virulence, water distribution system configurations and conditions), 100% prevention of LD is likely not possible. However, prevention and control practices can be implemented to reduce the risk of exposing people to Legionella in building water distribution systems. The Legionella prevention activities in this Directive involve assessing risks, monitoring water quality and implementation of commensurate engineering controls to limit the growth of Legionella. Use of engineering controls to limit Legionella growth includes ongoing monitoring of implemented controls, validating that the control measures are effective at inhibiting Legionella growth, and modifying implementation or type(s), as necessary. By focusing on engineering controls, this Directive can be viewed as a horizontal intervention that can improve the overall microbiological quality of facility water, not just the inhibition of Legionella growth” – VHA Directive 1061
Our law firm continues to monitor and investigate 100% preventable Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks that occur in VA facilities, long-term care centers, and hospitals. When legionellosis outbreaks strike within health care settings, 1 in 4 of the people who contract the illness die. Survivors are left with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical and aftercare expenses; they deserve legal compensation for these expenses, lost wages, and for their pain and suffering. To learn more about the multimillion-dollar settlements our Legionnaires’ disease lawyers have secured for our clients and their families, please contact our law firm.