SPRINGFIELD – State Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford on Friday defended George Miller, executive director of Loretto Hospital, where the western suburban senator serves as a board member and is the namesake of her department of emergencies, built with state funds that she helped secure.
Despite the coronavirus vaccine scandal at the West Side hospital, Lightford said Miller is “one of the best presidents we’ve ever had.”
Lightford’s show of support for Miller comes when deposed hospital executive Dr. Anosh Ahmed released a statement saying he stepped down as COO and CFO this week “because I was becoming a distraction to the heroic work of nurses, doctors and staff during the pandemic. ”
He maintains that “many” of the accusations against him were “inaccurate or patently false,” but he also admitted that only a quarter of those vaccinated at the hospital were residents of the surrounding Austin neighborhood.
“Unfortunately, the stories of my involvement in providing vaccines outside the community became daily political and media fodder rather than focusing on the pandemic and expanding access to health services in the Austin community and beyond.” Ahmed said in a statement Friday.
Ahmed and Miller came under scrutiny for the first time after Block Club Chicago revelations that the hospital improperly provided vaccines to workers at Trump Tower, where Ahmed lives; a luxury watch store on the Gold Coast where Ahmed shops; and a high-priced steakhouse that Ahmed frequents.
Miller has come under fire for authorizing Trump Tower vaccinations and providing vaccinations to more than 200 members of his Southwest suburban church.
He has not resigned but apologized last week.
“Have mercy on me, oh God,” Miller wrote on Facebook. Forgive me for going my own way and not aligning my life with Your perfect will. I confess that my own selfish purposes have deceived me and I have lost sight of Your face. “
At an unrelated press conference on Friday, Lightford, a 21-year-old Loretto board member, expressed strong support for Miller.
“It is important that we continue to provide quality healthcare to the Austin community, and at this time we do not view Mr. Miller as a detriment to our efforts,” he said.
The Maywood Democrat said Miller had made no contributions to her campaign fund, but state board of elections records show that in 2019 Miller made a $ 2,500 contribution to the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund, which Lightford oversees as president.
The hospital’s “Kimberly A. Lightford Emergency Department” is named after the senator. It was built in 2009 with “$ 8.2 million in capital improvement funds received from Lightford,” according to the hospital’s website.
Another board member, State Rep. La Shawn Ford, resigned from the panel earlier this week, saying the hospital’s reprimands of Ahmed and Miller were insufficient.
“I am very disappointed with the recent developments at Loretto Hospital regarding the use of the coronavirus vaccine entrusted to the hospital,” the West Side Democrat said in a statement issued Tuesday morning. “Yesterday I submitted my resignation … because I totally disagreed with the way the reprimand from the hospital management was handled.”
Before his resignation, Ahmed had been reprimanded by the hospital behind closed doors and given a 60-day suspension, a source told Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell on Wednesday.
In his statement, Ahmed said he was “dismayed” that Loretto did not disclose data from the hospital’s vaccination audit, which he calls “exculpatory.”
According to Ahmed, the hospital has administered more than 23,000 COVID-19 tests and vaccinated 16,000 people. Of these, only 200 vaccinated patients were considered unqualified to receive the vaccine.
In a statement, Loretto Hospital said the audit Ahmed referred to “has not yet been completed,” but once it is, the data will be shared “everywhere.”
“Loretto has been at the forefront of the pandemic from day one to care for and protect the black and brown communities of not just Austin, but also neighborhoods facing underserved health care needs across the West Side, providing 23,000 tests of COVID and more than 16,000 vaccines, the vast majority of which were for people of color, ”the statement said.
Earlier this week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot prevented the hospital from receiving more first-dose vaccines.
“We have very strong oversight,” Lightfoot said at a news conference Wednesday. “We have the right to expect, and under our contract, that people follow the rules and provide us with accurate reports. And what we’ve seen in at least two cases, that hasn’t been the case. “
In his statement, Ahmed pleaded with the mayor to reverse his decision.
“I am proud of the work we were able to do during my tenure at the hospital and I hope that with my resignation they will continue to move in the positive direction and continue to be an asset to the community,” he said. “I am hopeful that the city will immediately restore Loretto’s COVID-19 vaccine supply.”