CHICAGO — A state representative has resigned from Loretto Hospital’s board, saying he strongly disagrees with how two hospital executives were reprimanded after the board decided to keep the controversial leaders.
Loretto Hospital’s board of directors on Friday and Monday stuck by CEO and President George Miller and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Anosh Ahmed, who face controversy over the West Side hospital vaccinating ineligible people at Trump Tower, at a ritzy Gold Coast business and in the suburbs.
But Rep. LaShawn Ford, a member of the board and a representative for the area in the state Legislature, said Tuesday he’s resigning because he disagrees with how Loretto is handling the punishments for the executives.
“I am very disappointed with the recent developments at The Loretto Hospital regarding its use of coronavirus vaccine entrusted to the hospital,” Ford said in a statement Tuesday morning. “Yesterday, I submitted my resignation to The Loretto Hospital’s Board Chairman Edward Hogan because I strongly disagreed with how the reprimand of the hospital leadership was handled.
“As the state representative for the hospital and as a resident in its service area, I will continue to fight for resources for The Loretto Hospital, a safety-net hospital in the Austin community.”
Ford previously backed the hospital’s leaders, saying last week mistakes were made but Loretto wouldn’t “throw anybody under the bus.”
On Tuesday morning, though, Ford told Block Club he is resigning from the hospital’s board because “it’s the right thing to do.”
“I’m gonna let the board work this out. But I think there’s just a difference in how this should be handled,” he said. Later, he said, “I think … proper reprimands are necessary.”
Ford would not say what punishments, if any, the board did dole out to Miller and Ahmed, saying the board is working through a legal situation. He also would not say what punishments he did want to see the leaders face.
Ahmed has donated at least $12,000 to election efforts for Ford, a public database shows. Ford said that did not present a conflict of interest.
The board met Monday after Block Club reported on how the hospital vaccinated ineligible people at a luxury Gold Coast watch and jewelry store where Loretto’s chief operating officer, Dr. Anosh Ahmed, is a high-spending customer. Afterward, a Loretto spokeswoman said the board “has decided not to issue a statement. They have developed a corrective action plan and stand by the statement that was issued on Friday.”
The board has kept secret what “reprimands” it provided to Miller and Ahmed. And when asked about Loretto’s “corrective action plan” Monday, the hospital’s spokeswoman said she had no additional information.
The hospital’s board met Friday. Afterward, in a statement, members said they had taken “appropriate actions of reprimand against Miller and Ahmed for their role in the mistakes of judgment.” State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, who is also a member of the board, has declined to comment on how Miller and Ahmed were punished.
The hospital and its leaders have faced heavy criticism from city officials, who said they lost the trust of the community they are meant to serve and let people they know cut the vaccine line instead of prioritizing residents of the West Side, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
The city’s health department is investigating Loretto to determine if it’s been properly vaccinating people and reporting those vaccinations. The health department has cut off Loretto’s supply of vaccine doses until it’s confident the hospital is following city rules.
“I fear that we’re gonna hear more stories, which is why we pushed ‘pause’ on giving Loretto more doses,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday. “They’ve got work to do I think to rebuild trust in their own community. … We have already put plans together for other providers to kind of take up the work that Loretto was doing. But clearly they’ve got to have better systems in place, better controls.
“I don’t expect them to be coming back online anytime soon. … But it’s unfortunate that it’s come to this.”
The investigation started after Block Club reported on ineligible workers getting shots at Trump Tower, where multiple hospital leaders — including Ahmed — live. The criticism intensified after Block Club reported Ahmed had told people he vaccinated millionaire Eric Trump. He later claimed he was joking.
Ineligible Cook County judges were also offered shots at Loretto, according to a WBEZ report.
On Friday, Block Club reported shots were also administered to more than 200 members of the suburban church attended by Miller, who is also longtime friends with the church’s leader.
And on Monday, Block Club reported that Loretto also vaccinated ineligible people at a luxury Gold Coast jewelry and watch shop, Geneva Seal, where Ahmed is a frequent customer.
The city’s health department does not feel comfortable providing doses to Loretto given the controversies, its commissioner, Dr. Allison Arwady, told reporters Friday. She said her “biggest concern” is the hospital was vaccinating people who aren’t eligible — but she is also concerned officials prioritizes vaccines for people “who were well-connected, really letting them jump the line.”
“It’s disappointing where providers that we are prioritizing are not choosing to really live by the mission [of] their organization, and I think it seems that was the case here,” Arwady said.
The Loretto Board of Directors is conducting an audit of all off-site vaccination events, and it will share its findings with the Mayor’s Office and Chicago Department of Public Health, the hospital’s spokeswoman said.
Loretto Hospital is a small, 122-bed hospital that operates on the underserved West Side, where people of color have been hit hard by coronavirus and few people have been vaccinated. Trump Tower and Geneva Seal are in the Downtown area, where the virus’s impact has not been felt as much — but where more vaccinations have been done.
The city has highlighted Loretto’s work as an example of its goal of equitably vaccinating people — even insisting on having the city’s first vaccine doses administered there to show how Chicago would prioritize West and South side communities that are often ignored.
But the hospital is now shrouded in controversy.
A Loretto Hospital staff member — who asked to remain anonymous because they fear retaliation — said the controversies are “infuriating” because “people are calling every day, waiting in line to get vaccinated” on the West Side.
The staff member said West Side residents — already under-vaccinated but disproportionately affected by COVID-19 compared to the rest of the city — are effectively being punished by having their supply of vaccine doses cut off because the hospital’s leaders broke vaccination rules by steering doses to ineligible people who don’t live in the area.
On Monday, that staff member said many of their coworkers at Loretto are “frustrated” and questioning how anyone at the hospital can be held accountable. The board should have fired Miller and Ahmed, the staff member said.
“We sort of have lost trust in the leadership at Loretto Hospital. We’ve lost trust in the board,” the staff member said. “It seems very, very corrupt, and it seems like their self-interests are much more important to them than serving the West Side of Chicago, which so many of us are passionate about, and so many of us are at the hospital for this reason.”
The staff member said there is “very little accountability” at Loretto, and the board’s decision hurts the hospital, its employees and its patients by damaging Loretto’s reputation. The board has not addressed staff members, the employee said.
“I as well as many of my coworkers are frustrated, and I think Loretto has held many town halls over the recent months about the vaccine, and Mr. Miller always talks about how he and Dr. Ahmed got the vaccine on TV because leadership is as leadership does,” the staff member said. “But if this is what leadership does — can we just do whatever we want?
“Why should I work for or trust an organization that fails to hold its leaders accountable?”
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