A Chicago hospital is scrambling to contain fallout from the controversial decision to vaccinate workers at Trump Tower and members of the CEO's suburban church.
In a statement, the board of safety-net Loretto Hospital said it had reprimanded hospital CEO George Miller Jr. and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Anosh Ahmed "for their roles in mistakes of judgment made," but did not specify any sanctions.
"The appropriate response would be to thank Miller for his years of service and wish him well in retirement," said Erik Gordon, clinical assistant professor who studies corporate governance at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. "The vaccinations and the attempt to cover up their impropriety by invoking people of color is unworthy of a hospital leader, and especially a leader of a community hospital. If (Miller) stays, the hospital's accreditation should be reconsidered."
City officials announced yesterday they are halting Loretto Hospital's vaccine supply pending an investigation. With a limited supply of vaccine, "I am not comfortable, at this point, really giving Loretto the discretion that we typically give health care providers to vaccinate their patients and their communities," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said during a briefing today. "It's why we decided to put them on pause," at least until the city's investigation into the matter is complete.
Arwady said the biggest concern is that Loretto vaccinated people who weren't eligible yet, appearing to let well-connected people jump the line. "There's been some loss of community trust here, which is unfortunate and disappointing," Arwady said. "It's not a situation we ever wanted to see and I'm sure (Loretto is) wishing they had made more appropriate decisions so these actions didn't overshadow a lot of the good work they have done. But we have no other choice."
Ahmed, who lives at Trump Tower in downtown Chicago, was involved in the vaccination of 72 workers there earlier this month. A photo obtained by a local media outlet shows Ahmed posing with Eric Trump and a report said Ahmed bragged about having inoculated the real estate executive, which Ahmed denied.
Loretto is governed by a small, politician-heavy board that includes two state legislators and is chaired by a lawyer specializing in government law, employment relations and civil litigation. A third state legislator, Rep. Camille Lilly, is listed as the hospital's chief external affairs officer.
"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," the board said in its statement.
Besides promising a review of vaccination distribution practices, the board said, "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."
State Rep. La Shawn Ford was the first board member to react to word that members of a suburban church attended by Miller were vaccinated for COVID, while many eligible residents in and near the hospital's West Side Austin neighborhood await shots.
"It's not good for the Austin neighborhood, and they must be focused on where they do business," he told Crain's.
He said he had been assured that the vaccinations, at Valley Kingdom Ministries International in southwest suburban Oak Forest, had been approved by the city and involved eligible Chicago residents over 65, amounting to some 200 of the congregation's 4,000 members.
"It's very difficult for senior citizens to get around," Ford said, while adding, "The (hospital) president must focus on their service area . . . They've been all over, taking care of people in the Chicago area."
The other state legislator on the board, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, is vice-chair.
Also on the board is James D. Montgomery Sr., a lawyer who served as city corporation counsel under Mayor Harold Washington and has been president of the Cook County Bar Association. He practices personal injury and medical malpractice law. He did not immediately return a message.
The only doctor on the seven-member board is Dr. Mark Tomera, president of the hospital's medical staff.
The board chairman, Edward Hogan, has served as a special attorney general to the Illinois Tollway and the Illinois Department of Labor and counsel to the Illinois Department of Public Aid, according to the hospital's website.
The board's secretary-treasurer is Michelle Collins, listed as a vice president for commercial lending at ABC Bank and a former senior vice-president at ShoreBank. She could not be reached for comment.
Another local Chicago outlet reported that Cook County judges and spouses ineligible for vaccination were offered shots at Loretto.
Reacting earlier to the Trump Tower disclosure, Ford said in a statement that he urged Miller "to take immediate action ensuring strict adherence to the city of Chicago and Chicago Department of Public Health vaccination guidelines moving forward. I will work with the hospital's team to set up control measures designed to prevent this from happening again. At this juncture, the Loretto Hospital must focus only on the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically in the Austin community."
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain's Chicago Business.