The Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, the parent organization of Baton Rouge’s Our Lady of the Lake hospitals, announced Tuesday that “all team members” will have to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year.
The mandate will apply to employed providers, residents, students in clinical rotations, contract staff, and volunteers, according to a statement.
“We have listened to our team members and physicians as well as tracked the rapid progress of this fourth surge to reach this decision,” said Richard Vath, president of the Franciscan Missionaries system, in a statement.
Hospital systems across the state are issuing new policies in response to the state’s fourth surge of COVID-19, which has resulted in record-breaking spikes in cases and hospitalizations.
On Tuesday, the state reported that 2,112 COVID-19 patients were in hospitals statewide, the most at one time since the pandemic began.
Vath said OLOL teams “have risen to the calling to care for those who need them” through the pandemic but now “are straining to meet the demand.” He added that it could be “several weeks and possibly months” before the current surge’s peak is reached.
“We must act now to protect each other from spreading the delta variant and protect vulnerable patients from exposure,” Vath said. “Vaccines are the best means of accomplishing this and more important than ever as the lasting step to end this pandemic. We should not wait any longer.”
OLOL personnel will be required to receive a vaccine by December 2021.
Another major area hospital system, Baton Rouge General, announced its own vaccination policy Tuesday, telling employees they could “either be vaccinated or complete an education program on a quarterly basis, in addition to continuing to wear masks once the mask mandate is lifted.”
This training program, which developed Baton Rouge General CEO Edgardo Tenreiro said was developed in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, BRG physicians and infection control leaders, “is designed to dispel the myths and misinformation that leads many unvaccinated people to overestimate the risks of the vaccine and underestimate the risks of COVID.”
The policy for Baton Rouge General, which is reporting that more than 50 percent of employees have started a vaccine series, would start in September.
“Admissions at our hospital, across the state and the nation show that the majority of hospitalizations involve unvaccinated people who are younger and healthier than those who were sick in the first three waves,” Tenreiro said in a letter to employees.
“Vaccination and masking indoors are the best defense against the virus, working most effectively together.”
On Monday, Gov. John Bel Edwards reinstated his mask mandate, which goes into effect Wednesday, Aug. 4.