Healthcare workers sue Louisiana hospitals to halt vaccination mandates

Kelly Gooch - Print  | 

Employees of Our Lady of Lourdes Regional and Ochsner Lafayette General medical centers are suing to halt COVID-19 vaccination requirements, according to The Acadiana Advocate.

The workers, including nurses, a respiratory therapist and anesthetists, filed lawsuits Sept. 20 in the 15th Judicial District Court in Lafayette, La. 

They allege mandates at Lourdes and Lafayette General violate their rights to make their own healthcare decisions, the Advocate reported. 

"Louisiana citizens have a fundamental right to decide whether to obtain or reject medical treatment grounded in the state constitution, codified in statute, and long-recognized by the courts in the context of informed consent and the tort of invasion of privacy," the Lourdes lawsuit states. 

Plaintiffs also cite an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal Sept. 16, in which Joseph A. Ladapo, MD, PhD, an associate professor at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, writes that the vaccines "reduce but don't prevent transmission."

Lourdes, part of the Baton Rouge, La.-based Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, and Lafayette General, part of New Orleans-based Ochsner Health, are requiring the vaccine for employees. 

Ochsner Health is mandating all employees be vaccinated by Oct. 29, according to a news release shared with Becker's Aug. 24. Contractors, students, volunteers, agency nurses and vendors must also be inoculated. 

Ochsner, in a statement shared with Becker's Sept. 21, said: "Employees with medical and religious objections are able to file exemption or deferral requests which are individually and thoroughly reviewed by a panel of experts. Our employee vaccination policy, which was announced on Aug. 24 following full FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, is moving forward as planned. This policy also follows the expanded vaccination requirements issued by the Biden-Harris administration in collaboration with CMS and the CDC. Under this guidance, healthcare organizations that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs must establish and comply with vaccination mandates."

Ochsner added that it "stand[s] firmly behind the science and data that demonstrate the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccination" and said it would "provide ongoing resources, education and vaccine opportunities to our employees and the community."

On Aug. 3, Lourdes announced that leaders, employed providers and residents have until Oct. 31 to complete the COVID-19 vaccination series, according to court documents. All other employees have until Nov. 30.

Lourdes, in a statement shared with Becker's Sept. 21, said it adopted its mandate with considerable study and input from healthcare experts. Lourdes said it values workers and respects their rights, but "service in the healthcare industry involves unavoidable risks and special obligations. We feel strongly that we have taken appropriate measures to meet those obligations and mitigate the risks associated with the pandemic."

"Our Lady of Lourdes maintains its vaccination policy, which we believe to be consistent with the law and appropriate to the circumstances," the hospital said.

Workers who filed the lawsuits in Louisiana are asking the court to prohibit enforcement of the vaccination mandates. They are represented by attorney Jimmy Faircloth Jr. of Alexandria, La.

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