A Loretto Hospital emergency room technician says he witnessed what he calls “VIP” lines of patients coming in to be vaccinated at the West Side hospital.
During an appearance Tuesday on “Chicago Tonight,” Wellington Thomas, who says he has worked at Loretto for 15 years, said that he and other employees raised their eyebrows when they saw people whom they did not believe to be from the neighborhood receiving vaccinations at the hospital.
“I know my community, I’ve seen certain people all the time,” Thomas said. “But then we get different groups of people all of a sudden. It seemed kind of odd.”
Thomas hinted that the so-called VIP groups were of different demographic or ethnic backgrounds than the mostly African American patients the West Side hospital typically serves, saying they didn’t “look like the folks we normally see.”
“As far as the VIP line, you could see that they had different groups. Certain groups would be pushed to the side, even when there was a long line. We feel there are serious connections there,” said Thomas, who noted there is no proof at this point of a connection to hospital COO, Dr. Anosh Ahmed.
A Loretto Hospital spokesperson did not have an immediate response to the VIP claim, which comes on the heels of a series of reports from Block Club Chicago and WBEZ documenting what appear to be improper vaccinations of people connected to Ahmed and hospital CEO George Miller.
The first report described a vaccination event for employees of Trump Tower Chicago, where Ahmed is listed as owning a $2.7 million condo. WBEZ then reported on the improper vaccination of Cook County judges and their guests, despite not yet being eligible. Block Club also reported on an alleged improper vaccination event at a Gold Coast jewelry store where Ahmed is reported to have been a frequent customer, and an event at Miller’s home church in the suburbs.
Miller and Ahmed have since been “reprimanded” by the board.
The fallout prompted West Side state Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) to resign from his post as a member of Loretto’s board of trustees. In a press release Tuesday morning, Ford stated that he was “disappointed” with recent developments at the hospital, and that he could no longer serve because he “disagreed with how the reprimand of the hospital’s leadership was handled.”
“The people in the community deserve to know the consequences that the executives received,” Ford said. “It’s a public hospital and it receives state and federal dollars. We have to make sure we’re serving the community.”
However, Ford still could not expound on what exactly the reprimand of Ahmed and Miller entailed.
Efforts to reach Miller, Ahmed and remaining board members have been unsuccessful.
Greg Kelly, who is the president of SEIU Healthcare of Illinois, the union that represents Loretto workers, says the news of improper vaccinations have been “shocking” to staff.
“Our members have been on the front lines from the very beginning, some getting sick themselves,” Kelly said. “And yet here we are finding out, once we have an actual vaccine to deal with this, that it’s not being handled properly.”
Despite the problems, Thomas, Ford and Kelly called on the mayor to resume providing first-dose vaccines to the hospital to administer to the Austin community. A Loretto spokesperson says the hospital has given out 15,000 shots.
Lightfoot has called for a “pause” on the distribution while the hospital’s board investigates the circumstances behind the improper vaccinations, and she says they won’t be seeing new shipments “any time soon.” Patients who have already received their first dose can still get their second dose administered at Loretto, but Ford says the pause has disrupted the process.
“There’s a lot of confusion that has to be straightened out,” Ford said. “Because we hear the city will not be sending first doses, people looking for second doses … think they won’t be able to get their second dose.”