Ochsner Health employees facing month-long suspension due to refusing COVID vaccine


BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Ochsner Health held a briefing on Thursday discussing hurricane recovery efforts at affected locations, the latest COVID-19 data and employee vaccinations.

These members of Ochsner Health spoke:

  • Warner L. Thomas – President and Chief Executive Officer, Ochsner Health
  • Dr. Stuart Robert Hart – Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer,
  • Michael Hulefeld – Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Ochsner Health

President Warner L. Thomas led the briefing by talking about the progress that has been made within the Ochsner System since Hurricane Ida. Thomas emphasized the recovery efforts, prioritizing the rebooking of patients and support for employees.

Some good news came out of this briefing, in one week, the Ochsner System has seen a decrease in COVID-19 patients with numbers falling from 486 to 386. This is down from a total of 1,009 only one month ago.

Dr. Hart was asked why there has been a decline in COVID hospitalizations and the Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer pointed to the mask mandate and people reacting differently to the fourth surge.

There has been an increase in COVID vaccinations across the system. With regards to employees, 110 out of 32,000 are now quarantined.

Hurricane Ida has provided more obstacles for the hospital system. 1,300 employees are currently staying in hotel rooms.

It’s been over two weeks since Ida’s landfall and Ochsner facilities in Houma and LaPlace remain on generator power.

Hulefeld took the floor and mentioned that since Ida, around 40,000 out of 80,00 patients have had their appointments rescheduled.

When asked whether employees or health care workers at Ochsner are required to get the COVID vaccine, President Thomas said yes. If an employee or health care worker does not get the vaccine, then they will be suspended for 30 days.

“If they haven’t met a religious or medical exemption, and we have the criteria around the religious and medical exemptions, then they would be asked to leave Ochsner,” said Thomas.

At this time about 81% of Ochsner employees are vaccinated and around 150 to 200 have requested an exemption.

“We don’t want to lose folks, we want folks to stay,” said Thomas. “At the same time, we understand that we have to keep our employees and our patients safe.

As of Thursday, the state saw an increase in COVID hospitalizations, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

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