State Sen. Sue Rezin denied chance to sit in on Tuesday hearing on Vets Home

VAC: ‘There was no wrongdoing on the part of the staff’

There will be a hearing Tuesday, Nov. 24, before the Senate Veterans Committee in Springfield and state Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said Monday she has asked to participate. The answer was no.

“I am not being allowed (Tuesday) to participate,” said Rezin, who further stated she wasn’t given a reason.

And Rezin said she is frustrated because this flies in the face of precedent. When an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease happened at the Veterans Home in Quincy, the local state senator, Republican Jil Tracy, was permitted to participate even though she’s not a member of the Veterans Committee.

Committee members hope to get to the bottom of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Illinois Veterans Home at La Salle, which has resulted in 27 deaths from complications related to COVID-19, as well as 104 positive resident cases and 94 positive staff cases. To hear one veterans advocate tell it, the outbreak is no different than those affecting other nursing facilities where elderly residents are at an elevated risk of infection.

Steven Kreitzer, superintendent of the La Salle County Veterans Assistance Commission, issued a statement Monday citing a study (source: Chicago Tribune) showing 832 COVID outbreaks in nursing homes within the state, up from 722 just a week ago. The outbreak at the Veterans Home, he said, is in line with those reported at a private residential facility in Peru.

“It seems that once the virus gets in and grabs hold it's hard to eradicate,” Kreitzer said, “no matter the counter measures.”

And Kreitzer said it isn’t for lack of effort. The staff and director, he said, “assure us that they are following all the CDC and Illinois Department of Public Health’s guidelines. This includes nursing staff telling us they are on their hands and knees scrubbing all surfaces trying to eradicate this virus.”

“It is our belief that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the staff at the La Salle Veterans Home,” Kreitzer said, “but rather on the time it took to get the test results to the nursing home so they could take appropriate action.”

An employee told Shaw Media much the same thing. Several employees spoke on condition of anonymity and one said positive tests abruptly soared without warning after the state switched labs.

The hearing will be conducted virtually at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The link is: https://www.ilga.gov/senate/committees/hearing.asp?CommitteeID=2374

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.