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Loretto Hospital vaccinated more than 200 members of CEO’s suburban church

The West Side hospital has already received criticism for vaccinating Trump Tower workers and Cook County judges. It was expected to announce ‘harsh reprimands’ for President and CEO George Miller and another executive.

The city is cutting off vaccine doses allocated for Loretto Hospital, officials announced Thursday.
Sun-Times file

The president and CEO of Loretto Hospital, who authorized vaccinations for workers at Trump Tower, where a fellow executive owns a unit, is now under fire for providing vaccinations to more than 200 members of his southwest suburban church.

The vaccinations were provided in February to congregants of Valley Kingdom Ministries International in southwest suburban Oak Forest, according to hospital spokeswoman Bonni Pear.

Pear said hospital President and CEO George Miller reached out directly to the Chicago Department of Public Health to ask about the church vaccinations before they took place.

“CDPH informed Mr. Miller that as long as the recipients lived, worked or received medical care in the city and were 1B-eligible they could be vaccinated. At the time the church vaccinations occurred, the mandate from CDPH was to vaccinate as many 1A and 1B-eligible Chicagoans as possible,” Pear said.

The hospital’s primary mission has been to vaccinate people who live in and around the predominantly black community in the Austin neighborhood where its located.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Jan. 25 that under the Protect Chicago Plus program, Austin would be one of the communities targeted for vaccine distribution to reach individuals most impacted by the pandemic.

Pear said the hospital didn’t receive its first Protect Chicago Plus vaccine doses until March 11, and “none of these does have been taken out of the Austin community.”

A spokesman for the city’s health department said he needed time check details on the matter before commenting.

Neither Pear nor a city health department spokesman immediately knew whether Miller informed the city of his association with the church.

The news about the inoculations at Miller’s church was first reported Friday by Block Club Chicago.

It comes on the heels of news the the hospital provided inoculations to staff at Trump Tower who were ineligible.

The hospital’s board was expected to announce as early as Friday afternoon punishments for Miller and Dr. Anosh Ahmed, the hospital’s COO who owns a condo in Trump Tower.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, who sits on the hospital’s board, told the Sun-Times Friday morning that Miller and Ahmed will face “harsh reprimands” and that “both the president and COO understand that something has to happen.”

Both Miller and Ahmed have been removed from making decisions when it comes to the hospital’s vaccination program, Ford said.

Regarding the inoculations at Miller’s church, Ford said the church has more than 4,000 members, and the only congregants who received shots either lived or worked in Chicago and were over 65.

The city has cut off the hospital’s supply of vaccines as it investigates the decision making process at the safety net hospital.

On Tuesday, Block Club Chicago first reported the story of the vaccinations at Trump Tower.

In the wake of that news, WBEZ on Wednesday reported that Cook County judges and their spouses were also offered vaccinations at the hospital.

Loretto chalked both of those flaps up to misunderstandings of who was eligible for vaccinations.

Ford said the hospital’s vaccination program going forward would be subject to quality audits and the board would receive weekly reports.

He said the hospital is pushing hard for the city to again supply Loretto with vaccines.

He said the lack of vaccine at Loretto “would ultimately have adverse effects on the community it’s trying to serve.”