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Rauner names top aide to oversee Legionnaires’ response at Quincy Veterans’ Home

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks at the water treatment facility of the Illinois Veterans Home, in Quincy in July 2017. | Jake Shane/Quincy Herald-Whig via AP)

Gov. Bruce Rauner has tapped one of his top administrators — who is also a decorated retired Marine officer — to take over the state’s response to the Legionnaires’ disease “crisis” at the Downstate Quincy Veterans Home.

Michael Hoffman, acting head of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, was named named senior adviser to the governor “to lead the next phase of the state’s response to the health crisis,” Rauner’s office announced Friday afternoon.

Michael Hoffman | Illinois Central Management Services photo
Michael Hoffman | Illinois Central Management Services photo

“Our response at the Quincy Veterans Home involves multiple state agencies, medical and epidemiological experts inside and outside state government, facilities and engineering experts, local government, elected officials, federal government and more,” Rauner said in a statement. “The recent series of highly unusual winter disease episodes and the growing long-range complexities call for a center of operational control.”

Thirteen residents of the veterans home have died of Legionnaires’ disease since 2015, and dozens more have contracted the severe form of pneumonia.

Rauner has been criticized along with state health officials for their handling of the crisis. Emails obtained by WBEZ indicated officials knew about the outbreak for nearly a week before alerting the public. Eleven families are suing the state.

In January, Rauner spent several nights at the home “to gain a more thorough understanding of the clinical, water-treatment and residential operations of the home,” a spokeswoman said at the time.

The governor’s office said Hoffman’s appointment would centralize “responsibility and reporting for all aspects of the Quincy Home response,” and give staffers “a single point of coordination.”

Hoffman earned two Bronze Star Medals over 15 years as a U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was appointed acting head of CMS in January 2016.

CMS Chief Operating Officer Tim McDevitt was promoted to head of the agency, which oversees various state service programs.