CHICAGO — Loretto Hospital’s embattled president got a defender Friday: the state senator whose political fund he has donated to — and who sits on the board that will decide his fate.
Loretto and its executives, including CEO and President George Miller, have come under intense criticism after it was discovered the Austin medical center improperly vaccinated ineligible people at Trump Tower, a suburban church, a luxury jewelry store and other spots.
One of the hospital’s leaders, Chief Operating Officer Dr. Anosh Ahmed, stepped down earlier this week amid the controversy. Miller still sits at the helm of Loretto, though he took responsibility for the Trump Tower vaccinations and organized for people to be vaccinated at his south suburban church. More than 200 people got shots at the event, which happened in early February, when doses were hard to come by.
State. Sen Kimberly Lightford is vice chairman of the Loretto Hospital Board of Trustees, which oversees Miller and other hospital executives. Miller has donated $2,500 to a political fund run by Lightford, a public database shows.
Lightford denied that donation, despite the information being publicly available, and incorrectly said the Loretto scandals deal with less than 200 vaccinations. More than 200 people were vaccinated at Miller’s church alone. Loretto officials also claimed it vaccinated 72 people at Trump Tower.
The board has said it “reprimanded” Miller but has refused to say what punishment he received. And on Friday, Lightford said the board has no plans to see him go.
“… Serving on the board for 21 years, as I have, prior to COVID, Mr. Miller is one of our best presidents that we’ve had,” Lightford said at a news conference. “We’ve worked really hard to develop relationships in and all around the community so that we can continue to provide quality health care to our Austin residents.
“… We’re still looking at what we need to do to move forward, how we can continue to maintain the Loretto Hospital as the largest employer in the community. So there’s a lot at stake. Once COVID is over, we’re all back to normalcy, it’s important that we continue to provide quality care to the Austin community. And we do not, at this time, see Mr. Miller as being a detriment to our efforts.”
A West Side group has started a petition calling for Miller’s removal, saying the hospital’s actions were a “disgrace” and amounted to “gross negligence of public trust.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said there needs to be an independent investigation at Loretto — which the hospital has not committed to. State Rep. Marty Moylan, who represents northwest suburbs, has called for an independent investigation into the hospital’s vaccinations, as well.
Lightfoot said the hospital will need to work to “rebuild trust in their own community” in light of the scandals.
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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