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Deadly Legionnaire’s Disease Outbreaks at Veterans’ Home in Quincy, Illinois. Is the Government Downplaying the Problem?

For three straight years, a deadly outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease at a veterans’ home in Quincy, Illinois has returned, causing illness and death at the facility, and the state of Illinois seems to be downplaying this serious issue, despite investing millions of dollars in taxpayer’s money on the facility.

Legionnaire’s disease is caused by harmful bacteria that grows and spreads in warm water and can easily sicken people who are exposed to it. It is possible to contract legionellosis from inhaling water vapor in showers, fountains, or sinks. The Illinois Veterans Home, a state-run facility, has reported three straight years of legionellosis exposure which has sickened at least 61 residents and staff members and has killed 13 people.

While attention is now being paid to the crisis and how Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration has handled (or mishandled) the problem at the veterans’ facility, questions continue to surface about what should have been done before and after he took office. Senior Senator Dick Durbin has called for the facility to be shut down until the water system has been completely replaced and the quality of the water can be certified as “safe”, but as of now, the facility remains open.

Since an initial outbreak in 2015 that resulted in the death of 13 residents, the state invested $6.4 million dollars in upgrading the facility’s 100-year old plumbing infrastructure and implemented new water treatment standards at the home. Recently, the Illinois Department of Veteran’s Affairs proclaimed that the facility had the “cleanest water in the state”. The Centers for Disease Control, however, released a statement saying that the upgrades were a marked improvement, but the facility’s plumbing system still poses a “significant risk” due to its extreme age and the difficulty of completely eradicating the bacteria once it is found in an environment.

Right now, eleven families are suing the state for negligence on behalf of the deceased, but caps on damages against state-run facilities limits the potential recovery to $100,000 per case. While the families seek restitution, state representatives are looking for answers from the Governor’s office. Representative Durbin said in a statement: “This has progressed from a disastrous situation, where veterans of the state of Illinois have lost their lives because of contamination in the water supply at the veterans’ home in Quincy, to a scandal. I just don’t think there’s any other word to describe it,”

In order to prevent further outbreaks, it is clear that something needs to be done at the state facility. While veterans and employees of the facility are still at risk, the Illinois government has not taken responsibility or shown enough initiative to completely fix the issue or shut down the facility. If you or a loved one believe you have contracted Legionnaires’ disease, contact our skilled attorneys at (815) 929-9292 today.


Three-vehicle crash on 1-57 sends one to hospital

A man was hospitalized after a three-vehicle crash on Monday outside of Rantoul. The accident occurred on I-57 near the Rantoul exit at 7:26 p.m.  Authorities believe that the injured individual may have fallen asleep at the wheel and his car may have veered off the road, hit the end of a guardrail, and ended up in the left lane of the interstate. The driver was exiting the vehicle when it was struck by a black SUV and a semi-trailer.  All three vehicles sustained

All three vehicles sustained damage in the wreck and the driver of the first vehicle was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according to the story in the News-Gazette.

At Spiros Law, P.C., our thoughts are always with the victims of car accidents and their families. We firmly believe that people should take precautions to keep themselves and others safe on the road. Our team is always ready to help answer any questions you may have if you’ve been injured in an accident, so contact us at (815) 929-9292 today.


Study shows drop in workers’ compensation benefits paid in Illinois versus the rest of the country

According to a study released by the National Academy of Social Insurance (the Academy) and republished by the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, there was a significant drop in workers compensation benefits paid in Illinois, especially when compared with the rest of the country. The study indicates that there was a 19.3% decrease between 2011 and 2015 in Illinois, while the rest of the country actually experienced a 2% increase over the same period. The total workers’ compensation benefits paid in Illinois in 2015 totaled $2.4 billion (for reference).

According to researchers, the decrease was likely caused by a series of alterations to the medical delivery system in 2011, which included a reduced medical fee schedule and the institution of a preferred provider program. Other changes included changes to the disability rating standards and legislation that changed the statutory benefit levels, which likely contributed to the drop in payment over the years that followed.

In addition, the growth in employers’ workers’ compensation costs (3.8%) failed to grow at the pace experienced by the rest of the country (21.6%).  To read more about this study, read the story here. If you or a loved one has been hurt at work and has been wrongly denied workers’ compensation benefits, contact the team at Spiros Law, P.C. at (815) 929-9292 to discuss your legal options.


Spiros Law Senior Associate Patricia Gifford Interviewed on WIVR “River Country” and WVLI “The Valley”

Spiros Law Senior Associate Patricia Gifford was interviewed on WIVR “River Country” and WVLI “The Valley” in Kankakee this week. Listen to the interview (above) in which Patricia discusses the prevalence of nursing home abuse and what to do if you suspect a loved one has suffered abuse while in an elder care facility.

Listen to the interview with Patricia and if you believe that someone you love has been the victim of nursing home abuse, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us immediately for help. You can reach an experienced member of our team by calling (815) 929-9292, filling out a contact form on this website, or chatting with us live.


Federal Report: Illinois leads nation in nursing home abuse cases, while far too many still go unreported

According to a report released by the Department of Health & Human Services, an audit recently faulted the Medicare system for failing to enforce federal laws requiring immediate notification of possible sexual and physical abuse. In the report, Illinois had the largest number of incidents (at 17 overall) during the two year-span of the audit, from 2015-2016. Michigan followed with 13 incidents, Texas had 9, and California had 8, according to the inspector general’s auditors, who used investigative data analysis techniques to identify the cases through hospital emergency room records.

The HHS audit revealed a total of 134 cases in emergency room records that indicated possible abuse, yet in 28% of the cases (38 total incidents), there was no evidence that law enforcement had been notified of the incident, according to hospital records. Nursing homes are required by federal law, as well as certain state and local laws, to report any incidents of a suspected crime promptly. If there is bodily injury, the facility must notify law enforcement within two hours. If there is no serious bodily injury involved, they are required to report the suspected crime within 24 hours. What’s more, of the 96 cases that were reported to law enforcement, the investigators were not able to clearly define if they were reported within the federally mandated “prompt notification” windows.

For the families of the 1.4 million people in the U.S. who are living in nursing homes, this report is yet another indication that we should be concerned about the treatment of our loved ones who are in elder care facilities. Despite the laws requiring immediate notification of abuse, it is clear that not all facilities are following the rules, and residents are suffering as a result.

Based on the results of this audit, the inspector general has urged Medicare, which covers medical care and doctor’s services for the disabled and elderly, to review computerized billing records to identify more instances of abuse and to take immediate steps to remedy its procedures to identify and report incidents within the federally mandated windows.

To learn more about this audit and the findings of the Department of Health & Human Services audit, read more at the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. If your loved one has suffered abuse in a nursing home, or if the abuse was not reported in a prompt manner according to federal law, you do not have to let these failures stand. An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer of Spiros Law, P.C. can help you take action to hold the nursing home staff and facility accountable for their actions and can help you seek the compensation your loved one deserves.

 


Miranda Soucie to Speak at AAJ Education Webinar

We are proud to announce that one of Spiros Law’s attorneys, Miranda Soucie, will be participating in a national webinar hosted by the American Association for Justice. The title of the talk is Slip & Fall Webinar Series Part III: Discovery & Deposition Tactics. Join Soucie as she talks with Ken Levinson, Mike Neff, and Dan Chamberlain about building a discovery plan, working with depositions, and how to prepare a client. The talk will begin at 2:00 pm for those of you on the East Coast, on Tuesday, August 22. Join Soucie and her co-hosts as they discuss preparing your client, and yourself, for depositions!


Four-vehicle wreck injures sixteen people near Manteno

A four-vehicle wreck on Friday around 6:00 p.m. north of the Manteno exit on Interstate 57 injured sixteen people. Authorities say that none of the injuries are life-threatening and three individuals were treated and released on the scene, while the remaining injured individuals were transported to Riverside Medical Center and Presence St. Mary’s.

The northbound lanes of I-57 were shut down for about an hour while authorities cleared the scene and investigated the accident. The crash is still under investigation. To learn more about this story, visit the Daily Journal for updates.


Kankakee group home resident found dead in facility van

In a tragic developing news story, authorities in Kankakee are investigating the death of an elderly group home resident who was found in a facility van at 5:15 on Monday. Kankakee County sheriffs are investigating the cause of death, but initial reports indicate the individual may have passed away from heat exhaustion.

While details of the case are still being reported, early news indicates that the resident was a 69 year old who was in the care of Good Shepherd Manor at the time of the incident. The individual was a part of a group that went on a shopping trip on Monday.

Our thoughts are with the family of the victim. To learn more about this developing story, you can follow it here or read more at The Daily Journal here.


As farming remains a deadly career, experts urge the use of ROPS and a seatbelt

The risks of farming have decreased significantly over the past 50 years, dropping from 60 to 18 deaths per 100,000. Even so, farming lags behind similarly dangerous jobs, where recent technology has allowed their mortality rates to reach even lower. In 2015, 11 Illinois residents died while working the land, and as temperatures rise, more people are expected to be farming.

However, such unnecessary deaths can be prevented with basic tractor safety, such as the installation of a rollover protection system (ROPS). The system gained popularity between the 70’s and 80’s, and experts say the system, when paired with a seat belt, has a nearly 100% rate of effectiveness. On the other end of the spectrum, the likelihood of living through an accident without the protection of ROPS plummets to 20%.

The largest number of rollover accidents occur for farmers over the age of 55, who are often using outdated equipment. Farm safety instructors try to combat this trend by informing children about new techniques at their schools. Amy Rademaker, a farm safety specialist working for the Carle Center for Rural Health and Farm Safety said, “We often think that kids and younger folks are a way to their parents.”

In teaching a fourth-grade class of more than 200 students, Rademaker found a large discrepancy in children who wear seat belts in a car and those who wear seat belts in a tractor. It’s a common belief that a tractor accident would be less dangerous, due to their slow speeds, but sometimes a rollover can happen before anyone is able to react. Rademaker would like to see wearing a seat belt in a tractor become as critical as wearing one in a car.

David Newcomb, a farm worker himself and the manager of the Illinois Fire Institute’s Ag Rescue Program, teaches firefighters how to respond to farming injuries. He says there are several reasons a farmer may get into a deadly accident, even with ROPS installed. One of those reasons is that the system can be folded to fit into small spaces and just never get unfolded. He urges farmers to take care of themselves this season.


48 students and teachers sent to hospital for possible carbon monoxide poisoning

Fears of possible carbon monoxide exposure sent 48 students and teachers from Noel LeVasseur Elementary School in Bourbonnais to local hospitals on Thursday. Authorities believe that a boiler-room ventilation issue may have been the cause. The entire school was evacuated after students and teachers complained of dizziness and nausea, two major signs of carbon monoxide exposure.

To learn more about this story, read the Daily Journal article here. Our thoughts are with all of the affected students and teachers.