SPRINGFIELD — A bill to require notification within one day of a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Illinois veterans' homes was approved by the House's veterans' affairs committee on Thursday.
Sponsored by Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, House Bill 4310 would require the facilities to inform families, staff and residents within 24 hours either by email or printed letter.
Scherer told the committee the legislation was filed in reaction to a string of cases at the veterans' home in Quincy, where since 2015 13 residents have died from the pneumonia-like disease, spread through mist or water vapor.
"To me, one case is one case too many," said Scherer. "I don't think we need to wait until 13 people die before we do something."
Some representatives on the committee noted holes in the bill, ranging from permissions to definitions of terms.
While no cases of the disease have involved visitors to the Quincy facility, Rep. Natalie Phelps Finnie, D-Elizabethtown, said visitors should be among those notified about outbreaks. In addition, Rep. Randy Frese, R-Paloma, recommended extending notifications to non-family given power of attorney over a resident.
Eric Murphy, legislative liaison for the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs said while his department supports the idea behind the bill, it needed to define what an outbreak is. The committee also decided the bill should clarify that a notification should go out when a lab test confirms a case.
The committee initially asked if Scherer would pull back the bill for changes, but she urged them to forward it to the full House due to the large amount of bills that would be coming to the General Assembly as session starts to wrap up.
She promised the committee she would push forward a floor amendment to tighten up the bill in return for them pushing it forward. The amendment would return to the committee for further scrutiny.
Scherer said next year she'd like to have a more expansive version of the bill that would focus on other public buildings, such as hospitals, government offices or even the state Capitol complex.