Workers sue Louisiana's largest health system to block vaccination mandate

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About 40 employees of Louisiana's largest health system are suing Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport in Caddo Parish District Court to block the system's COVID-19 vaccination mandate, according to the Shreveport Times.

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 5, claims Louisiana's Constitution and laws gives residents the right to decide their medical treatments. It also cites 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 and Florida surgeon general, writes that the vaccines "reduce but don't prevent transmission."

"This fight is just beginning. Every day we receive more calls and emails from employees around the state who are being forced to decide between taking medicine they do not want and feeding their families," the workers' attorney, Jimmy Faircloth, said in a news release shared with the Shreveport Times.

"Any doubt about the sincerity of Ochsner's intentions was eliminated by the most recent threat to charge employees up to [$2,400] per year for unvaccinated spouses," Mr. Faircloth continued, referring to Ochsner Health's recent announcement about issuing a $200 monthly premium to employees with unvaccinated partners.

New Orleans-based Ochsner Health is mandating all employees be vaccinated by Oct. 29, allowing for medical and religious exemption requests.

As of Oct. 6, the system reported that more than 86 percent of Ochsner Health employees were fully vaccinated and 90 percent had received their first dose, inclusive of Ochsner LSU Health.

"We’ve seen this number continue to grow since we announced our employee vaccination requirement on Aug. 24 following full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, when 69 percent of our employees were vaccinated. We're proud to see members of our team roll up their sleeves each day to protect themselves and our patients," Ochsner Health President and CEO Warner Thomas said in a statement shared with Becker's.

Regarding the lawsuit filed Oct. 5, Ochsner LSU Health is "unable to provide further comment about ongoing litigation," according to a statement shared with Becker's from Ochsner LSU Health CEO Chuck Daigle.

Mr. Daigle added, "We stand firmly behind the science and data that demonstrates the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccination. We know that COVID-19 vaccination dramatically reduces transmission, severity of symptoms, hospitalizations, and death."  

Workers in the lawsuit seek a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to block the mandate.

A similar lawsuit brought by some employees of Ochsner Lafayette (La.) General Medical Center was dismissed in September.

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