Chicago safety-net hospital's contracts face scrutiny

Loretto Hospital in Chicago paid millions of dollars to private companies with ties to a business partner and friend of Anosh Ahmed, MD, the hospital's former COO and CFO, who resigned after reports of improper COVID-19 vaccinations from the 122-bed safety-net facility, according to an investigation by Block Club Chicago and watchdog group Better Government Association.

Seven things to know:

1. After examining the hospital's tax statements between July 2018 and June 2019, the investigation found that Loretto paid nearly $4 million in one year to three companies tied to Sameer Suhail. Mr. Suhail is a close friend and business partner of Dr. Ahmed.

2. Mr. Suhail's companies — including One Health Billing, based in Mr. Suhail's condo at Trump Tower — were created in 2018 after Dr. Ahmed took the executive role at Loretto. The companies are listed as independent contractors on tax statements.

3. The hospital's board on March 24 accepted the resignation of Dr. Ahmed after reports of improper COVID-19 vaccinations

4. Still, Mr. Suhail's spokesperson told Block Club Chicago and the Better Government Association that Loretto continues to work with Mr. Suhail's companies.

5. Loretto Hospital spokesperson Becky Carroll told Becker's Loretto is cash-strapped so "not only do they have to provide services and make sure that they are high-quality, but they have an obligation to do so at the best price possible given that there reimbursement rates for services are low so every dollar counts."

She said two of the contracts were competitively bid, and the other company provided a specialty service in a specialty area of psychiatry services. 

6. Ms. Carroll said: "By contracting with this company Loretto was able to expand psychiatric beds from 20 to 60 and services from five days a week through 5 p.m. to seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Psychiatric services are in high demand and therefore hard to staff, especially at safety-net hospitals, and by adding these beds Loretto was able to address a significant healthcare inequity facing the community. It's something that should be celebrated."

7. Chicago paused Loretto's COVID-19 vaccination program in March amid the controversy. Loretto resumed the program after the city opened a vaccination clinic April 21 in partnership with the hospital.

Read more about the investigation here.


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