Bruce Rauner ran for governor promising to run the state like he ran his businesses.
Promises made, promises kept. And so people died.
Before running for Illinois Governor Rauner ran GTCR, a private equity firm that owned, among other things, a chain of nursing homes.
GCTR had also assembled a chain of nursing homes, Trans Healthcare, Inc., for which Rauner had been making decisions four years after it was founded, the Chicago Tribune discovered—not the one year that Rauner claimed he had been involved. During those years, the nursing homes were sued and charged over $1 billion for at least six wrongful deaths. At the same time, investors, including GTCR, created a financial shell for all of the chain liabilities that was turned over to one of the residents of the nursing homes, thus protecting the assets of the investors.
Then there was yet another disquieting twist in the final weeks of the campaign. The Chicago Sun-Times, recently purchased by a group of investors including Rauner and still owned by many of his friends, pulled Dave McKinney, the paper’s long-time statehouse political reporter, off his reporting on the nursing home story and all politics on the grounds of questionable appearances because his wife works as a political consultant.
Six people died as a result of GTCR management.
The Sun-Times has since been sold to a group of Democratic Party liberals headed by Edwin Eisendrath.
In three straight years, legionellosis killed 13 people and sickened at least 61 residents and staff at the downstate veterans’ home, and the state has failed to stop the outbreaks and other cases despite investing millions of taxpayer dollars.
The tragic and continuing ordeal at the 210-acre facility in Quincy has heightened scrutiny over how well Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration has managed a deadly public health crisis that started after he took office.
A WBEZ investigation is spotlighting how veterans who endured unspeakable experiences on the battlefield died at the facility after being sickened by bacteria-contaminated water. Their families contend they weren’t diagnosed nor given antibiotics quickly enough to fend off what typically is a treatable form of waterborne pneumonia.
And now, Illinois’ senior U.S. senator, Dick Durbin, is saying the facility should be shuttered until its water system is fully safe. And he said it’s a “scandal” and an “insult” to veterans that the state hasn’t been able to rid the facility’s water system of Legionella bacteria over the course of nearly 30 months
Eleven families are suing the state for negligence. But because those deaths occurred in a state facility, Illinois law caps any potential awards at $100,000 — well below the seven-figure outcomes Legionnaires’ cases have yielded in litigation elsewhere.
In 2015, a dozen residents at the home died in the first outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, which can be contracted when people inhale infected water vapor through showers, sinks, and fountains. Legionellosis is a term that encompasses both Legionnaires’ disease and a less-deadly infection known as Pontiac fever. Since the initial outbreak, the state has imposed new treatment protocols and spent nearly $6.4 million on emergency upgrades to the complex’s water treatment system.
Despite having plumbing more than a century old, those upgrades have left the Quincy home with “the cleanest water in the state,” the head of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs said recently.
But in 2016, five more people at the home contracted Legionnaires’ disease, though no one died. That’s when Rauner traveled to the veterans’ home and told reporters the state was closely monitoring the home’s water for the bacteria.
“We’re really on top of the situation,” he said at the time.