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Healthcare workers file suit against Ochsner LSU Health over vaccine mandate

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A protest march opposing mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers was held Saturday morning down Youree Drive in the Broadmoor area of Shreveport. (Photo courtesy Katie Clark)

SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Around 40 health care workers on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport in Caddo Parish District Court asking a judge to throw out the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for all employees.  

On August 24, one day after the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was given full approval by the Federal Drug Administration, Ochsner Health issued a mandate requiring all its employees to be vaccinated by Oct. 29.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Caddo District Court disputes Ochsner’s right to force the mandate, saying that under Louisiana law, Article 1, Section 5, gives citizens “an affirmative, fundamental right to decide whether to obtain or reject medical treatment guaranteed by the state constitution, codified in statute and long recognized by the courts.”

Local health care workers have planned a “Peaceful Protest” against the vaccination mandates from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday on the corner of Youree Drive and Ockley. A similar protest was held at the same location two weeks ago with around 100 health care workers participating. Organizers expect an even larger group of supporters to join Saturday’s event.

The lawsuit cites statements made by Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, controversial newly appointed Florida Surgeon General, who opposes masks and vaccine mandates, in its argument against the Ochsner mandate.

The healthcare workers who are plaintiffs in the case are represented by Jimmy Faircloth Jr., an Alexandria attorney who represented 48 Lafayette health care workers who sued Ochsner Lafayette General in a similar case, which was thrown out in September.

While Faircloth argued that the Louisiana Constitution clearly gives the employees the right to refuse medical care under Article 1, Section 5, Ochsner’s attorney countered that the employees have a choice – to take the vaccine or go work somewhere else.

That case was dismissed on Sept. 24 by 15th Judicial District Judge Thomas Frederick, who after hearing the arguments, said the case didn’t meet the “no cause for action” exception filed by Ochsner Lafayette General.  

To overcome the exception, Faircloth tried to convince the judge that the 48 employees being told to get the vaccine or be fired would suffer irreparable injury, an argument Thomas rejected.

Thomas also found that Ochsner Hospital System is a private – not public – business, ergo, what it is requiring of its workforce is not unconstitutional.

A similar case was brought by health care workers against Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette, which is part of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, one of the largest in Louisiana.

On August 3, the hospital chain adopted its system-wide vaccine mandate requiring all employees, contractors, study clinics and volunteers to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 1.

Faircloth was also the attorney representing the health care workers in that suit, which on Sept. 30 also was thrown out by 15th Judicial District Judge Valerie Gotch Garrett, who said the employees didn’t prove the hospital’s process for exempting employees from the mandate was narrow enough to violate their right to privacy.

A hearing date has not yet been set for the Caddo lawsuit, but Caddo District Judge Craig Marcotte has been assigned to the case.

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