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Loretto exec prays for redemption after COVID vaccine mess

CEO George Miller said he was “misguided” on Facebook before his board reprimanded him and another top hospital officer behind a controversial event offering shots to Trump Tower employees.

George Miller, CEO of The Loretto Hospital, speaks during a press conference in January.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The chief executive of The Loretto Hospital posted a prayer on Facebook asking for the Lord’s forgiveness on the same day he and the officer who orchestrated the Trump Tower COVID-19 vaccinations were reprimanded by the West Side institution’s board.

“Have mercy on me O God,” George Miller wrote on Facebook. “Forgive me for going my own way and not aligning my life with Your perfect will. I confess that I have been misguided by my own self-serving purposes and have lost sight of Your face.”

The prayer, posted Friday morning, preceded a statement later in the day from Loretto’s board that announced an undisclosed action against the CEO and another top officer after a week of disclosures about the hospital’s vaccinations of ineligible people. Miller couldn’t be reached for comment.

“We are disappointed by the revelations of the past week,” the board said in a statement. “We have taken appropriate actions of reprimand against Loretto’s President/CEO George Miller and [Chief Operating Officer] Anosh Ahmed, MD, for their roles in mistakes of judgment made.”

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Loretto board member, said the action did not involve firing the executives but he declined to describe the reprimand.

The announcement capped an embarrassing week for the Austin-based hospital and for Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who in December embraced Loretto as an important city partner to vaccinate communities of color hard hit by the virus.

After news of questionable vaccinations, including the March 10 Trump Tower event that included shots for people who apparently jumped the line for priority, the Lightfoot Administration said it will indefinitely withhold vaccines from Loretto.

“We’re looking into all the details related to Loretto,” Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a call with reporters Friday. “This is obviously concerning. It is why we decided to put them on pause, which is not a small thing for us to do. And once we finish a full investigation, we will share out what else we learned related to this.”

Arwady said with a scarce amount of vaccine, the city cannot trust Loretto.

“The main goal is to make sure that people in Austin can get vaccinated, and right at the moment we are not so sure this provider is completely doing everything it can do to vaccinate its community.”

Earlier this week, Block Club Chicago reported that Ahmed hosted a vaccination of more than 70 at the Trump Tower and that those people were not eligible for vaccines under Chicago’s current schedule for priority. Public records show Ahmed secured an almost $2.2 million mortgage for a Trump Tower unit in October.

Block Club also posted social media showing Ahmed posing with Eric Trump and bragging that he vaccinated the ex-president’s son. Ahmed issued a statement saying he was kidding about Eric Trump being vaccinated. Ford said that he doesn’t believe Trump got a shot.

The hospital responded by saying it mistakenly vaccinated a group of mostly Trump Tower employees and, attempting to show the event included a diverse group, provided a racial breakdown on Friday, reporting 29 Asians, 27 Latinos, 12 Blacks and four “other” received shots. The hospital did not disclose where these employees live or their positions.

WBEZ reported Wednesday that more than a dozen ineligible Cook County judges and their spouses were provided opportunities to go to Loretto and get vaccinated. On Friday, Block Club reported that more than 200 members of Miller’s church in Oak Forest were vaccinated.

Loretto spokeswoman Bonni Pear confirmed that Valley Kingdom Ministries International in Oak Forest received vaccinations in February but said Miller reached out directly to the Chicago Department of Public Health to ask about the church vaccinations before they took place.

“The guidance is if you are doing a church and it is Chicago residents primarily getting vaccinated at that church, go ahead and vaccinate that church,” Arwady said without disclosing any direct conversation with Loretto on the church matter.

In an interview Friday, Ford, who initially publicly criticized the stream of news out of Loretto, said he was told that all the church members were seniors from Chicago, and, on the issue related to the judges, it was his understanding that the court officials pushed their way into the hospital.

“They came to the hospital because they know Loretto takes care of people,” Ford said.

Now the board and the executives are working on their proposal to the city to try to convince public health officials to restore the weekly vaccine supplies. That will include audits and detailed daily tracking of all shots, he said. “It’s important to stay focused on Austin, period,” Ford said.

Arwady said Austin, one of the priority areas for the city, will not see a decline in vaccine provided to the community, while other health care organizations will receive additional supply, she said.

Contributing: Tom Schuba, Mitchell Armentrout

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.