Oklahoma attorney general: Healthcare company violating order over COVID-19 vaccine requirement

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FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2021, file photo, a medical staff member prepares the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Tudor Ranch in Mecca, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

FILE – In this Jan. 21, 2021, file photo, a medical staff member prepares the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Tudor Ranch in Mecca, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office says it has issued a cease and desist letter to a healthcare company following a court ruling.

Last week, a Tulsa District Court judge granted Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor’s request for a temporary restraining order against Ascension Healthcare.

The healthcare company, which operates facilities in Oklahoma and 18 other states, required all healthcare workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 12.

O’Connor says the employees were not given a religious exemption option.

The restraining order was to stop Ascension Healthcare from terminating employees over the COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

However, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office says it learned that Ascension was allegedly violating the temporary restraining order.

“It appears that Ascension is determined to trample on the sincerely held religious beliefs of the healthcare heroes it employs despite the Court’s clear mandate,” noted Attorney General O’Connor.  “Ascension employees who are suspended in violation of the Court’s order simply want to be able to continue working with the same accommodations as those who have received medical exemptions.”

As a result, O’Connor issued a cease and desist letter to Ascension.

The letter demanded that Ascension immediately stop defying the court order and allow the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office time to investigate the allegations of religious discrimination. It also told Ascension to immediately reinstate all suspended or terminated employees who filed for a religious exemption.

“The TRO remains in effect until dissolved or modified by the appropriate court,” said O’Connor.  “Under the TRO entered by the Court, Ascension is required to rescind all such suspensions, terminations, or other adverse actions that occurred prior to November 12, 2021 and must allow all Oklahoma employees an additional thirty (30) days to submit requests for religious accommodations.”

Ascension Healthcare sent KFOR this response last week:

“As a leading healthcare provider, we continue to put the safety of our associates and those we are privileged to serve at the forefront of everything we do. This is why we have required our associates to receive both the COVID-19 vaccine and the influenza vaccine. 

We want patients to be assured and comforted with the knowledge that our doctors and nurses, other clinicians and associates, working in one of our hospitals or other sites of care, will either be vaccinated against both COVID-19 and influenza, or in the instances of exemptions or accommodations, be complying with additional infection prevention protocols.  Patients and their loved ones should have that peace of mind as they entrust us with their care.”

NICK RAGONE
EVP, CHIEF MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER

The State of Oklahoma has also filed a lawsuit against the federal government to stop its mandatory vaccination requirement against COVID-19.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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