Illinois News

Work underway at former Sycamore Healthcare as part of Veterans Home rebuilding effort

The Sycamore Healthcare building where work has begun to move veterans from the Illinois Veterans Home on Thursday, Jul. 5, 2018. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
Jake Shane1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 6, 2018 10:20 am Updated: Jul. 6, 2018 12:20 pm

QUINCY -- Crews are working on the former Sycamore Healthcare Center building as a temporary housing site for use while new buildings are constructed at the Illinois Veterans Home.

Mike Hoffman, who has been spearheading efforts to rid the Illinois Veterans Home of Legionella bacteria, said the state obtained the former nursing home site at 720 Sycamore on June 10.

"The cost was $625,000, which was negotiated at a significant discount off the asking price of $795,000," said Hoffman, a senior adviser to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Sycamore has 103 patient rooms and was licensed to house 205 patients before it closed in April 2017.

"With upgrades and changes to comply with current codes and (the Americans With Disabilities Act) requirements, we anticipate housing for between 120 and 160 residents in the building once renovations are complete," Hoffman said.

According to a plan of action for the Illinois Veterans Home released in May, the Sycamore Healthcare Center site was bought as a temporary housing site for Veterans Home residents during construction and demolition work.

"This project would allow the residents of IVHQ to have a comfortable living space removed from the noise and disturbance caused by the campus reconstruction project," the capital needs task force report said. "In the longer-term, this facility could be used to house another veterans population such as homeless veterans."

At the time the report was issued, it was estimated that construction and rehabilitation costs at the Sycamore Healthcare Center would be between $5 million and $6 million. Part of that cost involves asbestos abatement work, which Hoffman said is underway now.

There have been 13 deaths and more than 60 illnesses connected to Legionella bacteria at the Veterans Home since 2015. Four new cases of the illness, which can develop into pneumonia, have been diagnosed this year.

The state spent $6.39 million on a water purification system at the home that adds chemicals to water and heats it to kill Legionella and other bacteria. It also installed filters where the water is dispensed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has helped direct efforts to find and eradicate the Legionella bacteria from the home.

Rauner has pledged to build a world-class veterans home on the 210-acre Quincy campus that will continue to serve future generations of veterans. New water lines will be installed, and the city of Quincy got a state matching grant of $3 million to create a groundwater well that will prevent the presence of Legionella in city water.

This year's state budget includes $53 million for the first installment on what is expected to be construction of between $200 million and $240 million at the Veterans Home.

J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic nominee for Illinois governor, also has pledged to rebuild the veterans home during a visit to Quincy last week.

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