Loretto Hospital Union Says Workers Need Meeting With Leaders, Spots On Board Amid State Investigation

A union for more than 200 Loretto workers said it’s asked to meet three times with hospital leaders amid the scandals — only to be ignored.

Loretto Hospital in Austin on Aug. 18, 2021.(Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago)

This story was produced with Block Club Chicago, a nonprofit newsroom focused on Chicago’s neighborhoods.

A union for Loretto Hospital workers is calling for the facility’s leaders to meet with them about how to oversee the hospital as it faces a state investigation.

Members of the SEIU Healthcare Union — which represents 210 Loretto workers in frontline care roles — have asked three times since July to meet with the hospital’s board members but have been rebuffed, a union spokesperson said. They want to discuss oversight and worker and community representation at the hospital amid scandals at Loretto.

The union also wants workers and community members to get spots on Loretto’s board.

The hospital’s leadership has come under scrutiny for insider contractspolitical ties and Block Club reports about how COVID-19 vaccines intended for the West Side instead went to Trump Tower and people and businesses connected to the hospital’s new leaders.

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office confirmed last week it has opened an investigation into Loretto following the Block Club and Better Government Association reports. A spokesperson for the attorney general declined to provide details on the scope of the inquiry, saying only that it concerns “potential misuse of charitable assets.”

In a public letter, union President Greg Kelley said the hospitals’ workers are concerned about the allegations behind the investigation.

The union supports a “fair and full investigation” but worries Loretto could lose its nonprofit status and would have to close and get rid of its workers, Kelley wrote. He said that would hurt the community’s health and financial wellbeing.

“The best solution for both protecting workers and community members at present — and for preventing the recurrence of [allegations] — is to literally give both workers and community representatives a seat at the table by creating designated spaces for them on the Loretto Board,” Kelley wrote.

“Through our union, representatives of Loretto workers have been requesting an opportunity to meet with the current Loretto board on the need for such oversight and community and worker representation. It is our hope that in light of the current investigation, that the board will finally agree to this request.”

A Loretto spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the past, the hospital has defended its business practices and said it was finding new ways to generate revenue and provide high-quality health care.

The 122-bed safety-net hospital serves mainly low-income people and patients of color, records show. It is run as a tax-exempt non-profit corporation, and its $81 million annual budget comes through the taxpayer-financed Medicaid program, as well as state grants and donations.

Inquiries like this one by the attorney general “are not particularly common,” said David Bea, a Chicago attorney who has represented hundreds of nonprofit clients over the past two decades. “I’ve seldom seen an organization under investigation. It’s pretty rare.”