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Pritzker says he can't comment on IDPH shakeup of oversight of nursing homes

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Friday, July 31, 2020  |  Article  |  By Greg Bishop | The Center Square

Governor (44) , Health (49) , Nursing Homes (68) , Senior Citizens (81) Schimpf, Paul--State Senate, 58

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker won’t say why two employees who oversaw the state’s COVID-19 response in long-term care facilities left their positions.

The Illinois Department of Public Health confirmed this week two officials with nursing home oversight roles have been removed from their positions earlier this month. One left state employment. The other was put on leave.

State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, said there seems to have been a shakeup.

“The governor either fired or reshuffled his IDPH team that was working on the COVID-19 response in the nursing homes and long-term care assisted care facilities,” Schimpf said. “That is something that we really need to provide legislative oversight on.”

He called for a special session of the legislature with such oversight as part of the focus.

Pritzker wouldn't elaborate when asked about the shakeup on Thursday.

“We don’t discuss employment matters like this,” Pritzker said. “Information will be available as it comes forward in the normal processes of state government.”

With more than half of the COVID-19 deaths occurring in nursing homes, AARP Illinois State Director Bob Gallo said it’s important there be public hearings on the entirety of the issue.

“There’s been a lot of gaps and we’ve been learning a lot as we go along so the faster that we have all the knowledge we possibly can the sooner we’re going to get this under control and get it back to something that resembles normalcy in our society and in the facilities that care for people,” Gallo said.

“Transparency in what’s going on is just so incredibly important,” he said. “It’s not just for loved ones, but it’s for public health departments as well to know exactly what's going on in facilities.”

As to when families or even senior advocates will be able to visit inside, Pritzker couldn’t say.

“Even deliveries are difficult to do because we don’t want the truck drivers and other people who are bringing goods to a nursing home to, again, go in and give it to somebody inside the facility,” Pritzker said.

Of the 7,478 COVID-19 deaths recorded so far this year, there were 4,062 in long-term care facilities.