Chicago hospital stripped of vaccines after immunizations at COO's condo

Kelly Gooch - Print  | 

The city of Chicago is withholding first COVID-19 doses from Loretto Hospital pending a review after it offered vaccinations to workers at Trump Tower, where the hospital's COO, Anosh Ahmed, MD, owns a condo, the Chicago Tribune  and Block Club Chicago reported.

The hospital, a 122-bed acute care facility on Chicago's West Side, acknowledged improper vaccinations this week. The story was first reported by neighborhood news website Block Club Chicago, and NPR affiliate WBEZ reported March 18 that ineligible judges in Chicago's Cook County and their spouses were also offered doses by the hospital.

"While we will ensure that people who were vaccinated through Loretto can get their second doses on time, Loretto will not be receiving any first doses of vaccine next week," the Chicago Department of Public Health said in a statement shared with Becker's March 19. "The hospital will not receive first doses until we can confirm their vaccination strategies and reporting practices meet all CDPH requirements."

In a memo to staff shared with Becker's, Loretto Hospital President George Miller Jr. said he authorized the hospital March 10 to vaccinate 72 restaurant, housekeeping and other hotel support personnel at Trump Tower.

He said the decision "stemmed from requests from West side residents who work at the hotel and were unable to leave their jobs to be vaccinated during regular in-hospital hours. We were, at the time, under the impression that restaurant and other front-line hospitality industry workers were considered 'essential' under the city of Chicago's 1B eligibility."

Hotel and restaurant workers are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. They are part of the city's 1C vaccine phase, which Chicago estimates will begin March 29. 

After discussions with the Chicago Department of Public Health, Mr. Miller said the hospital was mistaken in using doses from the hospital's vaccine allotment.

Both the hospital and the health department have said the Trump Tower vaccinations were not part of Protect Chicago Plus events and sites, which target those who are age 18 and older in high-need communities most affected by the pandemic.

"Our mission remains focused on ensuring vaccine accessibility to the minority communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have met the community where they are, responding to requests to vaccinate 1B-eligible" residents, said Mr. Miller.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has expressed concerns about the reports about Loretto Hospital.

Ms. Lightfoot said in a statement: "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."

SEIU Healthcare Illinois, which represents Loretto Hospital workers, objected to the city's decision to withhold vaccine doses from the hospital.

Union President Greg Kelley said in a March 18 news release that the union is instead urging the hospital board of directors "to hold the individuals responsible for breaking vaccine protocols accountable."

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