Attorneys representing the families of two veterans who died of the coronavirus at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home said Friday they’ve launched their own investigation into the cause of the outbreak at the downstate facility.
Lawyers from the Levin & Perconti law firm are working with the families of Korean War veterans Richard Cieski and Anthony Samolinski to investigate the causes of the November outbreak that killed the two men and could file lawsuits on their behalf. The firm has previously filed suits on behalf of COVID victims in about a dozen private nursing homes across the state, a statement from the firm said.
“What we’ve seen in looking at other cases is that there’s a consistent pattern of gross negligence among facilities where these massive outbreaks happen,” Steven Levin, a founding parter of Levin & Perconti, said in a statement. “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, we see the results. These are predictable and avoidable tragedies.”
Cieski and Samolinski are two of the 33 veterans who’ve died at the home since an outbreak of the coronavirus there early last month. As of Friday, 108 residents have tested positive for the virus, and 60 have recovered so far. Another 15 remain COVID positive.
Of the 103 staff who’ve tested positive for the virus, 102 have recovered and one remains COVID-positive. There have been no staff deaths to date.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state veterans officials launched their own investigation into the circumstances around the spread of the deadly virus at the veterans home after a pair of reports found ineffective hand sanitizer at the home as well as employees showing up for work after testing positive for the coronavirus and inadequate “hand hygiene” by those employees.
Angela Mehlbrech, the administrator of the veterans home, was fired earlier this month, and Anthony Vaughn, who served as acting assistant director, was named the interim administrator as the department searches for a permanent replacement.
Earlier this week, Linda Chapa LaVia, an Army veteran and director of the state’s VA department, and Tony Kolbeck, her chief of staff, appeared along with Dr. Avery Hart, who represented the state Department of Public Health, to answer questions about the spread of the virus from members of the Illinois House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Hart said staff at the home have “responded to this very tragic outbreak … by closing the identified gaps in infection control practice.”
That work includes “interdisciplinary leadership rounds,” which means the acting administrator, the acting director of nursing and other top figures at the home making rounds together.
All frontline staff also are required to complete in-service training on the coronavirus, which will be a “scenario-based infection control training — it’s designed specifically with best practices for COVID-19 in mind,” Hart said.