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Loretto Hospital executive resigns in wake of COVID-19 vaccination scandal

The move comes as Mayor Lightfoot defended her administration and its “very robust oversight” of vaccines distributed by the city.

Anosh Ahmed has resigned as COO of Loretto Hospital.

Anosh Ahmed, the Loretto Hospital executive at the center of a series of COVID-19 vaccination controversies, has resigned, the hospital’s board announced Wednesday night.

The board said it is continuing its investigation into actions taken by Dr. Ahmed, Loretto’s chief operating officer, and Chief Executive Officer George Miller, after a series of reports that hospital executives had taken city-supplied vaccine and used it to inoculate people at the Trump Tower downtown and at other locations, rather than use it for residents of the Austin community that Loretto serves. In some of the cases, the hospital gave shots to those who were not eligible.

“If our review should uncover anything further that indicates our processes were compromised, there will be additional consequences imposed on those responsible for these actions,” Chairman Edward Hogan said in a statement.

Before his resignation, Ahmed had been reprimanded by the hospital and given a 60-day suspension, a source told Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell on Wednesday.

The trouble at Loretto was first reported by Block Club Chicago. The site reported the hospital vaccinated Trump Tower employees, 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 that there was another questionable vaccination event tied to Ahmed, this time at Maple & Ash, a Gold Coast steakhouse at 8 W. Maple St.

In a statement, Maple & Ash corporate parent What If Syndicate didn’t deny that employees were provided shots through Loretto and only said “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 CEO was given a two-week suspension by the hospital.

Loretto Hospital at 645 S Central Ave in South Austin, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times
Loretto Hospital at 645 S Central Ave in South Austin, Tuesday, March 23, 2021.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Lightfoot defends city oversight

The announcement of Ahmed’s resignation came just hours after Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended her administration’s job overseeing scarce COVID-19 vaccine supplies.

“We have very robust oversight,” Lightfoot said at a news conference Wednesday. “We have a right to expect — and per our contract — that people abide by the rules and they give us accurate reporting. And what we’ve seen in at least two instances, that hasn’t been the case.”

Lightfoot responded to questions about the city’s protocols for making sure the COVID shots are going to where they’re intended — especially to vulnerable communities — after the situation at Loretto and another problematic case became public in just over a week.

In the second case, the city on Tuesday said the Innovative Express Care clinic misallocated 6,000 doses of vaccine intended for Chicago Public Schools employees. The city now is withholding vaccine distributions to both the hospital and the clinic.

Clinic officials said in a statement that the issue was a miscommunication, a characterization that Lightfoot ripped into Wednesday.

“I know that’s what they’re saying but it’s absolutely false,” a visibly angry Lightfoot said.

“They’re going to say a lot of things I suspect yesterday, today, tomorrow,” Lightfoot added, “but the fact of the matter is we gave them every opportunity to get right with what the rules and responsibilities are for every provider who has the privilege of getting access to the vaccine and they repeatedly failed to hold up their end of the bargain. And so now they’re dealing with the consequences of those actions.”

She promised “very swift action” for any health care providers that don’t follow the rules of distributing vaccines to those who are the most needy and eligible under current guidelines.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker also weighed in on the Loretto controversy Wednesday, saying “if you’re violating those guidelines, you shouldn’t be getting vaccine to give out.”

“People who are the administrators of the vaccines need to be responsible, need to follow the rules that have been set out — the guidelines that have been set out by the state, and, in that case, by the city,” Pritzker said.

Contributing: Mitchell Armentrout, Madeline Kenney

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