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Report Says Illinois Veterans’ Deaths Were Result Of Ultimate COVID Care Failures

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Report Shows Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gravely Affected Resident Exposure to COVID-19 at LaSalle Nursing Home

The Illinois Department of Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released its investigative report identifying the causes behind the massive COVID-19 outbreak in the fall of 2020 at the state-run veterans’ Home in LaSalle. The long-awaited public report confirms what many of us already know and outlines the unforgiving failures that resulted in the untimely death of 36 people from coronavirus. Notes published by the OIG show that the facility did not implement the proper infection control policies to prevent the spread of the disease among staff and residents and allowed a deadly outbreak to go on despite warnings. 

The report paints a gloomy picture that documents failures from many. It leads with, “Ultimately, our investigation determined that the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ (IDVA) lack of COVID-19 preparation contributed to the scope of the outbreak at the home. In addition, failures in communication at the home and within the IDVA leadership also contributed to a delayed response to the outbreak.”

After the outbreak began at the start of November 2020, inspections led by Federal and state surveyors of the LaSalle Veterans Home also revealed:

  • inappropriate use of hand sanitizer that was alcohol-free and not effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19
  • relaxed screening protocol at the staff entrance to the facility
  • care staff congregating, not social distancing or wearing masks

The home is located at 1015 Oconor Avenue in downstate LaSalle.

You can review the full OIG published report titled, The Fall 2020 COVID-19 Outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home.

“What has been revealed by the OIG report is very much consistent with what we’ve seen at other facilities where these massive outbreaks happened,” said Levin & Perconti partner Michael Bonamarte, who is representing several LaSalle families impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. “There are well-documented ways to protect nursing home residents from infection, clearly outlined in federal guidelines. But when leaders fail to put those protocols into practice with adequate policies, procedures and training, we see the devastating consequences of those failures. These are predictable and preventable tragedies.”

Biggest Covid Failures Sat at the Top of Veteran Care Chain

The leadership team at the IDVA is responsible for overseeing operations in LaSalle and at the state’s three other veterans’ homes in Quincy, Anna, and Manteno. The OIG investigation further demonstrated how the IDVA administration had failed to communicate care expectations and was not actively inspecting conditions at the facilities or providing support. 

It’s not surprising, though, as previous health and safety audits of all four IDVA homes in 2019 showed:

  • policies were inconsistent between the homes 
  • policies were incomplete or outdated 
  • infection control policies DID exist, but “it was not clear how they are integrated into an Infection Control Management Program”

All of the facilities in Illinois operated by the state have a strong history of providing troublesome care and are consistently understaffed. They have earned unapologetic 1–3-star ratings, showcasing some of the most deficient quality care measures among long-term care facilities in the state. 

Ultimately, while COVID-19 cases were falling across the state of Illinois and vaccinations were on the not-so-far-away horizon, the extreme carelessness in LaSalle continued. Preventable deaths and sicknesses occurred due to the lack of leadership and failures in following safety protocols. The event is now linked to long-standing evidence in the low quality of care provided at the home, its reduced staffing levels, and infectious disease-related issues that could have been prevented with the proper preparedness expected of them.

Levin & Perconti Is Representing More Than A Dozen LaSalle Residents

The Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin & Perconti currently represent more than a dozen other LaSalle Veterans’ families who lost loved ones during the outbreak. We aim to hold IDVA leaders responsible and managers accountable for their blatant efforts to avoid shortcomings in care.

Levin & Perconti Law Firm also represents the estate of 90-year-old Korean War veteran and LaSalle resident Richard Cieski in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against IDVA. In November 2020, Mr. Cieski died after being exposed to the COVID-19 outbreak at the state-run veterans’ facility. Bonamarte said that Mr. Ciskei’s death could have been avoided had LaSalle taken appropriate precautions. The lawsuit filed April 5, 2021, alleges that the appropriate measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were well-known when LaSalle’s outbreak began but not supported or implemented. Our attorneys believe there were standards in place that should have been followed, and practices that could have been enforced, and the April 2021 OIG report confirms this.

We are experienced in helping veterans who have suffered at the hands of a poorly performing VA nursing home – and we urge others to come forward now to share their stories. If you are a nursing home employee who has witnessed this suffering, we can also help you. More often than not, those providing frontline care will feel helpless but see firsthand the more significant underlying problems that have led to an alarming number of nursing homes with trending rates of COVID-19, harmful abuse, and preventable neglect.

U.S. Veterans Deserve Quality Care and The Highest Amount of Respect

Levin & Perconti is one of the most widely known and respected nursing home abuse and neglect law firms in the country, serving veterans and their families who have been impacted by nursing home abuse, wrongful death, malpractice, or neglect. Our attorneys are dedicated to making sure veterans are protected, their voices heard and stories told, and that their legacies of service be honored. Veterans (and their family members) have rights, including the right to seek a legal remedy as guaranteed by the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act.

If you are considering a legal case against an Illinois veterans home related to COVID-19 or want to share your story to help others, please contact us for a free consultation at 877-374-1417. You can also reach us in Chicago at 312-332-2872. All calls and discussions with our attorneys are free and confidential.