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raunervietnamvets

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner presents a Vietnam veteran with a lapel pin marking their service during a commemoration service for veterans of the war at the University of Illinois at Springfield on Thursday.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Strict standards for notifying Illinois veterans homes' residents and their families of disease outbreaks have passed both houses of the legislature, leaving it up to Gov. Bruce Rauner to make it law.

After passing the House two weeks ago, House Bill 4278 passed the Senate 52-0 Thursday.

The bill would require residents of state-run veterans home and their families to notified within a day of two or more people contracting any highly deadly infectious disease. It mentions the flu, pneumonia and Legionnaires' disease as examples. The latter has frequently been a problem at the veterans home in Quincy after an outbreak in 2015. Thirteen residents have died at that home due to the pneumonia-like sickness.

In addition, veterans home officials would have to post a public notice near the main entrance of the facility and notify both the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs and Department of Public Health.

"When your loved one is in harm's way, you want to know," said Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, the bill's sponsor. "This measure ensures that caretakers and family members have health care information as soon as possible to make the best possible medical decisions."

During the 2015 outbreak, staff and residents were only informed via word-of-mouth, with some not finding out until the story broke in the local news, according to testimony to a joint House-Senate committee on the Quincy home in February.

"This is a commonsense measure that puts the health of our veterans ahead of bureaucracy," said Cullerton. "In 2015, the families of the servicemen and women residing the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy should have been notified of the Legionnaires' disease epidemic, but Gov. (Bruce) Rauner's administration left them and their loved ones in the dark. This is simply unacceptable and we can't let it happen again."

The state veterans' affairs department supports the bill, according to spokesman Dave MacDonna.

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