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Lightfoot not satisfied with Loretto exec’s resignation

The mayor demanded Thursday that the hospital hire an independent auditor to detect the problems that allowed its vaccination campaign to be hijacked by the politically connected.

Loretto Hospital is at 645 S Central Ave in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday said Loretto Hospital should hire an independent auditor to detect the problems that allowed its vaccination campaign to be hijacked by the politically connected.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The resignation of the Loretto Hospital executive at the center of a coronavirus vaccination scandal hasn’t put out the political fire with Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Saying she knows of “at least one other story in the works” with potential to embarrass Loretto, Lightfoot demanded Thursday that the hospital hire an independent auditor to detect the problems that allowed its vaccination campaign to be hijacked by the politically connected and “come clean about it.”

The mayor seemed duly unimpressed that Anosh Ahmed, Loretto’s chief operating officer, had resigned after a week of revelations about what she called “misappropriated precious vaccine” at a West Side hospital whose “core responsibility” is serving low-income Black communities.

“They need to come clean about every instance in which vaccine has been committed to people that don’t fit into that West Side footprint and tell us about it. Audit, detect the problems and then, come clean about it,” Lightfoot said during a conference call with City Hall reporters.

“I’ve been reassured repeatedly that, ‘Oh, mayor. We’re doing that.’ But clearly, that’s not true. And so now, it feels like it’s death by a thousand cuts for them. My understanding is there’s at least one other story in the works. So they’ve got to take care of their business. They’ve got to do a fulsome audit. And they’ve got to own responsibility for what has happened. That has not happened yet.”

Lightfoot cut off Loretto’s vaccine supply after Block Club Chicago blew the lid off a vaccine favoritism scandal that seemed to grow by the day. And she handed Loretto’s responsibility for vaccinations in the Austin community to Rush University Medical Center.

The site reported the hospital vaccinated employees at Trump Internationah Hotel & Tower, where Ahmed has a condo, and held another event at a high-end Gold Coast watch store he frequented, Geneva Seal Fine Jewelry & Timepieces. Geneva Seal has not responded to requests for comment.

Block Club also reported Wednesday another questionable vaccination event tied to Ahmed, this time at Maple & Ash, a Gold Coast steakhouse, 8 W. Maple St.

In a statement, Maple & Ash corporate parent What If Syndicate didn’t deny employees were provided shots through Loretto, saying only “there have been no sanctioned vaccination events within our company.”

The hospital also has been questioned about 200 vaccinations given at Miller’s south suburban church and a WBEZ-reported story detailing an invitation to Cook County judges and their spouses to jump the line and get vaccinations at Loretto.

The source told the Sun-Times the hospital suspended its CEO for two weeks.

The fast-unfolding vaccine scandal has embarrassed Lightfoot, who has stressed vaccine equity and outreach above all else and deliberately chose Loretto to administer Chicago’s first coronavirus vaccine doses.

On Thursday, the mayor said Ahmed’s resignation isn’t nearly enough to restore the city’s confidence to reinstate Loretto as a vaccine provider.

“They’ve got to build better systems to be able to handle appointments so we don’t see what we’ve seen — frankly, where they’re opening up these pop-up clinics that are intended to be for West Siders that have people from all over the metropolitan area registered to get vaccine. That doesn’t make sense to me,” she said.

“There’s a number of things they need to do to demonstrate to our satisfaction that they understand the magnitude of the problem and they’ve got better controls in place to make sure these problems don’t repeat themselves. It’s just frustrating that we’re not seeing the kind of movement that we would expect in light of the problems that have been drip, drip, drip coming out of Loretto.”

Lightfoot was asked whether there is anything more the city should do to police the vaccinators it designated — particularly after Chicago Public Schools accused Innovative Express Care Clinic of misappropriating 6,000 vaccine doses intended for CPS employees.

The mayor noted she cut off Innovative’s vaccine supply after she “got a tip” about the alleged misappropriation.

“We are looking at whether or not there are additional things that we need to do to make it crystal clear — although I think it’s already crystal clear — what their obligations are. That they can’t freelance. That they can’t mis-report or misallocate doses. That they’ve got to give us factual reporting,” the mayor said.

“I’m not gonna stand by when any provider in this time of great need and scarcity of this precious life-saving vaccine is gaming the system. We’re not gonna tolerate that.”