CHICAGO (CBS) — City officials have cut off Loretto Hospital’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines after the West Side hospital broke the rules for who is eligible to get shots.
CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reports Loretto has acknowledged providing vaccine doses to dozens of Trump Tower workers, some Cook County judges, and about 200 members of the hospital CEO’s church, even though they were not yet eligible to be inoculated.READ MORE: Thieves Keep Using Postal Master Keys To Steal Mail: How Are They Getting A Hold Of Those Keys?
Loretto Hospital President & CEO George Miller publicly posted a video announcing vaccinations at his church, Valley Kingdom Ministries International in Oak Forest, more than 30 miles away from the West Side community that Miller said in December needed these vaccines the most.
He said life expectancy in the Austin neighborhood is significantly lower than the rest of Chicago.
“Life expectancy today was 88.2 years of life, but if you come just 20-minute drive on the Eisenhower to Exit 23B, that number drops down to 68.2 years of life,” he said at the time, when Loretto was one of the first hospitals to begin putting shots into arms.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Loretto’s board of directors said they “have taken appropriate actions of reprimand” against Miller and chief operating officer Anosh Ahmed “for their roles in mistakes of judgment made.”
The board did not specify what those actions were.
“We are disappointed by the revelations of the past week. While it is the estimation of the Board that all reported events stemmed from a sincere desire to vaccinate as many eligible Chicagoans as possible – especially people of color – as quickly as possible, we acknowledge that actions were taken that fall outside the scope of The Loretto Hospital’s core mission. We have taken appropriate actions of reprimand against Loretto’s President/CEO George Miller and COO Anosh Ahmed, MD, for their roles in mistakes of judgment made.
“With a laser focus on the Austin community, we are reviewing all vaccination distribution practices at the hospital. We are working with the hospital executive and medical teams to put control measures in place to ensure strict adherence to City of Chicago and Chicago Department of Public Health vaccine eligibility requirements and reporting protocols moving forward.
“We will not allow any of this to derail us from our commitment to serving a community disproportionately devasted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are proud that The Loretto Hospital has administered more than 14,000 coronavirus vaccines to-date, 65 percent of which have gone to people of color. The Loretto Hospital has been on the frontlines of the fight against COVID on Chicago’s West side since day one and we will not rest until every eligible Austin resident has been vaccinated.”
It’s precisely because COVID-19 hit particularly hard in Black and Brown communities surrounding Loretto that the hospital was selected as the backdrop for Chicago’s first coronavirus vaccinations in December.
Miller has admitted to vaccinating 72 restaurant, housekeeping, and other hotel employees at Trump International Chicago last week; a group not yet eligible for shots.
The Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge’s office also confirmed that some judges who were not in the county’s eligibility category also received COVID-19 vaccinations at Loretto Hospital.
SEIU Healthcare Illinois represents many Loretto workers, and the union has questioned the way vaccines are being distributed for months.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Wednesday Starts On A Chilly Note
“That’s correct; since the beginning, since January and February, and so as the stories continue to come out, they are outraged. They’re upset,” said Greg Kelly, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois. “They are mostly concerned about the ways in which the hospital’s reputation is being impacted by this. They’ve been working since COVID and even before COVID to care for folks in a vulnerable community of Austin.”
Kelley said he understands Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s desire to hold people accountable, but said her announcement that she was denying the hospital future allocations of vaccine while the city reviews Loretto’s vaccinating and reporting actions, “shouldn’t come at the expense of so many people who need that vaccine, and are looking for it in Austin.”
Illinois State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), whose district includes Loretto Hospital, said he worries that putting new first dose shipments on hold will hurt the progress they’ve made so far.
“I think that no good deed goes unpunished here, and only thing that I think that the Loretto Hospital did wrong was they lost focus on the targeted community that they are charged with, and that’s the Austin neighborhood,” he said.
In a statement, Lightfoot said the city will take action against providers that do not comply with CDPH guidelines:
“Our City will not tolerate providers who blatantly disregard the Chicago Department of Public Health’s distribution guidelines for the COVID-19 vaccine. This life saving vaccine is a precious, but limited resource and one that must be preserved to do the most good. Since day one of this virus, Chicago’s vaccination plan has been focused around equity and reaching those who need this life-saving treatment the most. Unfortunately, in recent days, stories have surfaced alleging providers who had an obligation to follow CDPH guidelines, ignored those restrictions and instead allowed well-connected individuals to jump the line to receive the vaccine instead of using it to service people who were more in need. CDPH is looking into these matters and if they identify providers who aren’t following the guidance, they will deny them future allocations of vaccine. If we are compelled to take action against any such providers, we will always make sure that residents are not left in the lurch and their needs are met. But to be clear, we have and will continue to demand accountability.”
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Austin residents will still have access to the vaccine at Protect Chicago Plus events.
“We will be bringing in additional vaccine resources as it is necessary,” she said.
Austin residents also can sign up for appointments at the United Center mass vaccination site by calling the call center at (312) 746-4835.MORE NEWS: View Live Radar
Late Friday afternoon, Loretto posted on Facebook that it still has a limited supply expiring doses of vaccine available to anyone in Chicago until 5:30 p.m., with registration available on-site.