Health care workers sue La. hospitals over vaccine mandate

Published 8:43 pm Sunday, September 26, 2021

By William Patrick

The Center Square

More than 80 health care workers are suing two Louisiana hospital chains over the health systems’ COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees.

Both lawsuits contain similar allegations and were filed by attorney Jimmy Faircloth in the 15th Judicial District Court in Lafayette. Faircloth once served as executive counsel to former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The health care plaintiffs are seeking temporary and permanent injunctions against the vaccine mandates, as well as declaratory judgments against Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center and Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center.

Ochsner Lafayette General is south Louisiana’s largest regional health system with more than 4,500 employees across the flagship Ochsner Lafayette General Medical Center and six separately owned or managed hospital affiliates.

The Ochsner lawsuit asserts Louisiana citizens have “a fundamental right to decide whether to obtain or reject medical treatment” as outlined in the state constitution, state law and court rulings regarding informed consent and invasion of privacy.

The lawsuit also cites scientific claims that COVID-19 vaccines do not prevent the transmission of the virus.

“There is no longer any serious argument that mandating vaccines will prevent transmission or eradicate the disease as previously claimed,” the court filing reads. “Nevertheless, Defendant is attempting to force Plaintiffs, and others, to undergo vaccination for COVID-19 over their personal objections and in disregard of their uniquely well-informed understanding of the virus and treatment options.

“In the best possible light, these hospital mandates are a misguided effort to participate in a public health crusade by coercing private-sector employees to undergo medical treatment for their own good and the good of the public at large.”

The legal complaint against Our Lady Lourdes Regional Medical Center mirrors the basic allegations against Ochsner, including disregard for “natural immunity” gained from previous COVID-19 infection.

Our Lady Lourdes Regional Medical Center is part of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, one of the largest in Louisiana.

The hospital chain adopted its system-wide vaccine mandate Aug. 3. All employees, contractors, student clinicians and volunteers require full vaccination by Dec. 1.

Doctors, physician assistants and nurses must provide proof of vaccination by Oct. 31 or face suspension without pay. If not fully unvaccinated by Nov. 30, they will be fired, according to the policy.

“The Lourdes Vaccination Mandate allows medical and religious exemptions, but does not provide a clear deadline for submission,” the lawsuit said. “Rather, the instructions are at best vague and at worst intentionally evasive to discourage use.”

In response, Lourdes Regional Medical Center issued a statement saying it “values all of its team members and respects their rights.”

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

Ochsner Lafayette General’s public response 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.

“We continue to serve as a source of truth and provide ongoing resources, education and vaccine opportunities to our employees and the community.”