Advocates Say Chicagoans Should Not Be Punished for Hospital Execs Who Gave Vaccines to Elites

The Loretto Hospital is seen in Chicago, on December 15, 2020. (Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images)

Advocates Say Chicagoans Should Not Be Punished for Hospital Execs Who Gave Vaccines to Elites

"The city should investigate the actions at the Loretto Hospital, but the community shouldn't be cut off during the pandemic."

Public health advocates on Friday urged Chicago authorities not to cut off members of a high-risk community from access to coronavirus vaccines after reporting revealed a small hospital on the city's west side let well-connected individuals--including Trump Tower workers and Cook County judges--jump the line to receive inoculations.

The facility in question is Loretto Hospital. Located in the Austin community, the small hospital serves the area's predominately Black and Latinx residents.

"The hospital will not receive first doses until we can confirm their vaccination strategies and reporting practices meet all CPDH requirements," the Chicago Department of Public Health said in a statement.

As WBEZreported Thursday, "Loretto admitted Thursday it made a mistake--its second admission in a week--after WBEZ reported that 13 Cook County Circuit Court judges were given the opportunity to get coronavirus vaccines at the hospital in the Austin neighborhood on March 8."

Judges are not yet eligible for doses under the city's vaccination rollout plan.

Those revelations followed Block Club Chicago's reporting Tuesday that the hospital gave jabs to workers at Trump Tower Downtown even "as many in Chicago who are eligible to be vaccinated and most at risk from Covid-19 are still struggling to find an appointment and get their shots."

Loretto's Chief Operating Officer Anosh Ahmed, the outlet also noted, owns a unit in the Wabash Avenue tower.

Local WGN9 has a rundown of the recent controversy:

Block Club on Friday provided more reason to scrutinize the hospital's vaccination efforts.

According to documents obtained by the news outlet, the hospital vaccinated over 200 members of the church attended by Loretto Hospital CEO George Miller. The church is not in the hospital's community--or even in the city at all. Valley Kingdom Ministries International is in the southwest suburb of Oak Forest.

"The first [vaccination] event was held in early February, soon after after eligibility expanded to people 65 and older and demand for doses was sky-high in the city," Block Club reported.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot this week criticized the hospital's decision to vaccinate those who did not yet meet the criteria.

She said in a statement that the city would "not tolerate providers who blatantly disregard the Chicago Department of Public Health's distribution guidelines for the Covid-19 vaccine."

"Unfortunately," Lightfoot added, "in recent days, stories have surfaced alleging providers who had an obligation to follow CDPH guidelines, ignored those restrictions and instead allowed well-connected individuals to jump the line to receive the vaccine instead of using it to service people who were more in need."

SEIU Healthcare Illinois, while criticizing the hospital's actions, said the city's response was wrong.

"It's crucial that the [hospital] board limit their corrective action to the two individuals responsible for this lapse in judgment--and not punish workers and the community they serve," SEIU Healthcare Illinois president Greg Kelley said in a statement Friday.

"While we understand the need to ensure that vaccine protocols are followed, as the union of frontline healthcare workers putting their lives on the line at Loretto Hospital and other facilities across the city," said Kelley, "we strongly object the decision by the Chicago Department of Public Health to withhold vaccine doses from a safety net serving high-risk and underserved, majority Black and brown communities."

State Rep.LaShwan Ford, whose district includes Loretto, gave a similar message to WBEZ.

"The city should investigate the actions at the Loretto Hospital," he said, "but the community shouldn't be cut off during the pandemic."

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