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Loretto CEO should be fired after COVID vaccine controversy, community petition states

A Trump Tower event and shots given at hospital executive George Miller’s suburban church raised questions and led to a suspension of vaccine supply from the city. 

Loretto Hospital at 645 S Central Ave. serves the Austin community.
Loretto Hospital at 645 S Central Ave. serves the Austin community.
Anthony Vazquez, Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Some community organizers in Austin are calling for the firing of The Loretto Hospital President and Chief Executive George Miller over his handling of COVID-19 vaccines.

As of Monday, an online petition had almost 250 signatures and the lead organizers say they are asking for a video-conference meeting with the hospital board members, a request the directors so far are not granting.

“The documented inappropriate use of our vaccines, the lack of accountability/respect of our vaccines by President Miller and his team during the pandemic have and continue to disgrace Loretto Hospital and the community it serves,” said an April 5 letter from organizer Mary Russell Gardner and a dozen other women.

Miller is being disciplined by his board, receiving a two-week suspension, following vaccine events at the Trump Tower, the CEO’s South Suburban church and elsewhere that led Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Administration to cut off vaccine supplies until the hospital can show that it has a plan to make sure shots are going to the Austin community.

The hospital is conducting an inquiry and audit to present to the city. The hospital’s No. 2 executive, former Chief Operating Officer Anosh Ahmed, resigned last month in the wake of the controversy.

Austin is one of the hardest hit communities by COVID and Loretto was entrusted to make sure its residents were getting vaccines. But last month a number of reports by Block Club Chicago and other media outlets described events that took the vaccine shots to a Gold Coast watch store, the Trump Tower and other sites outside Austin.

“Leadership at Loretto is focused on completing the internal audit process for the city, delivering critical health care services to the community and its future,” the hospital said in an emailed statement.

Miller hasn’t commented publicly but said on his personal Facebook page he was “misguided.”

Gardner, an Austin community organizer and former aldermanic candidate, started the online petition drive calling for Miller’s ouster.

“We realized this story is not done yet — it’s one thing after another, after another, after another,” Gardner said in an interview. “We want to get Loretto back to where it can be administering the new doses.”

Gardner called the situation “a mess” and said the board has a duty to restore the trust of the community and the city, which controls vaccine supplies for small hospitals like Loretto.

“We were just outraged that they did not fire the executives at the hospital,” said Austin resident Tara Stamps, who also signed the letter. She said the actions were disrespectful to the community.

“The behind-the-scenes jockeying to retain Miller … reeks of arrogance and disrespect of the community and the professionalism to lead this institution,” the women said in their letter.

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