BATON ROUGE: Ochsner Health announced Saturday that employees will no longer have to take a COVID-19 vaccine and is planning to take the case to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Read the full statement below:
“Since Ochsner Health announced a COVID-19 vaccination requirement policy in August, the vast majority of our employees have taken one of the safe, effective vaccines available to them or received an exemption or deferral to meet this requirement. We are grateful to see this significant progress and commitment to patient safety shown by our heroic colleagues.
Not only is this policy the right thing to do for our patients and employees, it is clear that employers have the right to implement vaccine mandates. This policy is in line with the anticipated federal requirement for COVID-19 vaccination of staff within all Medicare and Medicaid-certified facilities announced Sept. 9. We anticipate guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on this any day.
A few weeks ago, a lawsuit was filed challenging the vaccine mandate in Shreveport and in Monroe. Both district courts followed established law dismissing the cases. The decision on Thursday by the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal in the Shreveport case to reverse the decision issued by the district court was both surprising and disappointing. This ruling is inconsistent with established Louisiana law as well as with decisions of courts across the country upholding COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Ochsner Health intends to appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court and is confident we will prevail.
In light of the court’s decision Thursday evening, we are deferring our compliance deadline for all Ochsner LSU Health employees across facilities in Shreveport and Monroe until the matter is settled. This includes deferring the requirement for all those unvaccinated to get tested weekly for COVID-19 starting Monday, November 1. All employees will continue to be required to wear masks pursuant to CDC guidance. Those who are not vaccinated are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated or to request a religious or medical exemption where applicable.
Our employee vaccination policy timeline will continue as planned at all other Ochsner Health facilities. Similar to other health systems that have implemented a vaccine requirement, we expect that a small percentage of employees will not be in compliance with our policy by the initial Oct. 29 deadline and will take a leave or be suspended. During the 30-day leave period, we will continue communicating with team members not yet in compliance about the options available to them.
We hope to see our colleagues remain on the Ochsner team to continue their remarkable work for our patients and communities. We are committed and available to employees still determining their next steps and will continue to provide resources, support and one-on-one opportunities with physicians and HR leadership.