State Representative Deanne Mazzochi (R-Elmhurst), a member of the House Judiciary-Civil Committee, has released the following statement after this morning’s hearing on the LaSalle Veteran’s Home COVID-19 outbreak:
“I have spent months warning about the dangers COVID can present to vulnerable seniors in long term care facilities, and encouraging the state to devote more resources to protect them.
When we have a veteran’s facility where over 25% of the residents have died subsequent to a COVID outbreak, I had hoped Director Chapa La Via would have clear, direct answers; would be intimately knowledgeable with the facts from the fateful two weeks in late October to early November when the COVID outbreak at the facility lost containment; and that she personally had initiated discussions with not just the personnel involved, but the Governor, to keep our veterans in not just LaSalle, but everywhere in the state, safe.
However, after spending the morning questioning director Chapa La Via and her staff, the department and our veterans would be better served by a change in leadership, and I am calling upon her to resign. I am holding her to no less of a standard than the one she applied when she served as a legislator with oversight on issues involving our veterans.
Under her leadership, COVID-19 was able to run rampant in two of the state’s four homes, resulting in the deaths of dozens of veterans in the state’s care. Finding out what went wrong and where, and demanding accountability is not, as she called it, “micromanagement”; and understanding what went wrong is not just the job of people with medical credentials. It means getting all the facts immediately; and taking responsibility for the organization that she heads to resolve a crisis.
I am particularly disturbed that the agency has outsourced any continued investigation or options for improvement onto a separate agency, with no concurrent self-assessment on the practices and policies that led to the outbreaks. As members of our committee from both sides of the aisle agree, what they heard today was stonewalling of our legislative investigation; and a distinct lack of corrective action being taken by the agency. And, that no steps were taken to ensure the investigative cooperation of the administrator in charge of the facility at the time is an independent critical oversight error.
Furthermore, the apparent effort to insist that this outbreak must have arisen as the result of generalized COVID “community spread” in the LaSalle area, while calling “speculative” the heartbreaking possibility that COVID spread and deaths arose because patient bubbles were not preserved; doors to the rooms of COVID-positive patients were kept wide open; re-gloving from patient to patient was not properly done; the wrong kind of hand sanitizer was in dispensers; cross-contamination risks in administrative areas, and much more as detailed in the evidence of infectious disease control reports who visited the site on just one day, is appalling.
We can’t be afraid to say mistakes were made, and use that to find ways to get better. But to suggest, as was done today, that collective bargaining requirements may prevent full and immediate compliance by staff with infection control requirements is fundamentally disturbing. We can’t be afraid to tell union leadership that our veterans deserve our best. If you cannot get what you need because of procedural rules, then go to bat for our veterans with the Governor, and if he won’t act, then to us, so the necessary change occurs. Every Agency director should be expected to do that, and anyone in charge of our state’s veterans must be someone who not only wants to, but will, identify and rectify their facilities’ COVID policies and practices immediately and to ensure our veterans get the best care.”