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Hospital official resigns after Covid-19 vaccines were improperly distributed at Trump Tower in Chicago

The Board of Trustees for Loretto Hospital accepted the resignation of its COO and CFO Dr. Anosh Ahmed on Wednesday following a discovery that the hospital improperly distributed the Covid-19 vaccine at Trump Tower in downtown Chicago.

The news comes just days after the city’s Department of Health announced it is withholding additional first doses of Covid-19 vaccines from the hospital, which is in a predominantly Black community in zip codes hardest hit by the virus.

Loretto CEO George Miller said he authorized a vaccine clinic at Trump International Hotel and Tower in downtown Chicago on March 10 for hospitality workers.

In a memo obtained by CNN, Miller told staff in part “We were, at the time, under the impression that restaurant and other frontline hospitality industry workers were considered ‘essential’ under the city of Chicago’s 1b eligibility requirements.”

Ahmed owns a condo at Trump Tower worth $2 million, according to the Cook County property tax portal.

CNN reached out to the Trump organization twice but has yet to receive a comment. CNN has reached out Ahmed for comment as well.

Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said some people who didn’t meet eligibility requirements received the shot.

“The biggest concern here is they were vaccinating people who were not eligible yet but then added to that of course is the larger concern that it seems they were prioritizing people that were well connected and allowing them to jump the line,” Arwady said. “It’s disappointing where providers we are prioritizing are not choosing to live by their mission.”

Late Wednesday, Loretto Hospital Board of Trustees Chairman Edward M. Hogan said the board will continue to investigate wrongdoings.

“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,” he said in a statement.

Julie Kudlacz, a spokesperson with the hospital, said in an email exchange with CNN earlier on Wednesday that the vaccines administered at Trump Tower were not part of Protect Chicago Plus, a city program focused on getting minority communities vaccinated.

They were part of the hospital’s vaccine allotment, Kudlacz said.

Kudlacz also told CNN that a hospital audit revealed 68 of the 72 people who received the vaccine at Trump Tower were Black, Latino or Asian. The remaining four classified themselves as other/non-Hispanic.

Miller said in his statement the clinic at Trump Tower stemmed from requests from West Side residents.

Illinois governor: ‘it’s unacceptable to let people jump the line’

Alderman Emma Mitts said over the last year she has lost track of how many friends — many who voted for her — died from Covid-19.

“There was so much we couldn’t keep up with them, and it was just heartbreaking,” she said. “They would call and say, ‘My mom passed away.'”

After more than a year suffering through Covid-19, Mitts is now dealing with a different type of pain. The hospital is located in the Austin neighborhood near the ward Mitts, who has been an alderman for two decades, represents. She said her constituents are among the most vulnerable.

“To have this happen is certainly a tragedy,” Mitts said. “Everyone shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s mistake when you know they didn’t have nothing to do with it.”

Illinois State Sen. Kimberly A. Lightford, vice chairman for the Loretto Board of Trustees, said Miller and Ahmed were “reprimanded” by the hospital’s board of trustees.

“And that doesn’t change the fact that what they did wrong is wrong,” Lightford said, adding the public may hear of more wrongdoing linked to vaccine distribution. “We have reprimanded the president and (former) COO of the hospital extensively. Sanctions were placed (and) financial charges as well. Neither one of them were pleased, of course. Perhaps thought we were a little heavy handed. I assure you; it won’t happen again.”

Lightford said she, like Mitts, is disappointed.

“I think they did a poor job going to the Trump Tower,” she said. “My frustration is when anybody doesn’t follow the rules here … everybody suffers, but I think the hospital is dealing with it.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker called what happened “unacceptable.”

“It’s unacceptable to let people jump the line, especially if people have clouded their way through,” he said.

People who need vaccine the most could suffer, doctor says

The Chicago Department of Public Health released a statement saying it will ensure that people who were vaccinated through Loretto can get their second doses on time.

Loretto will not receive first doses until CDPH can confirm Loretto’s vaccination strategies and reporting practices meet all CDPH requirements, according to a statement from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office.

The city’s first Covid-19 vaccines were administered at Loretto hospital in December. The hospital was chosen because of the need in the community and its proximity to the Austin neighborhood.

The hospital was also the first to create a West Side community testing site in April 2020. State statistics show this area has seen 10,535 Covid-19 cases, the second most Covid-19 cases in the state, according to Loretto hospital.

Dr. Wendy Goodall McDonald — who treats patients all over the city — said the people who need the vaccine the most could suffer.

“I think that the pulling of the vaccines for the area will hurt and harm the Black and brown communities,” she said. “They pulled it from an area on the West Side of Chicago where there’s already a lack or a decreased amount of places that people can get vaccinated.”

McDonald, who is an OB-GYN at Women’s Health Consulting, said some of her patients have had a tough time securing Covid-19 vaccine appointments, comparing booking appointments to trying to grab Beyonc√© concert tickets.

She said she hopes the controversy surrounding this case is motivation for minority communities hesitant to get the vaccine.

“The vaccine is safe,” she said. “Look at the people clamoring to get it.”

Alderman Mitts, who received two doses of the vaccine earlier this year at Loretto, said she doesn’t want the people she has served for nearly two decades to miss a lifesaving vaccine.

Article Topic Follows: National-World

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