Our Lady of Lourdes responds to anti-vax protests: ‘We will not waver’

Andrew Capps
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center responded to anti-vax protests on its Lafayette campus Wednesday by reiterating its commitment to requiring employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19

“The preponderance of science is heavily weighted for the benefit of vaccination, and of this there can be no doubt,” OLOL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Henry Kaufman said. 

The Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, which owns Our Lady of Lourdes, announced on Aug. 3. that all employees will have to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by Nov. 30.

More:Our Lady of Lourdes, Franciscan Missionaries requiring COVID-19 vaccine for employees

“All of the providers in this hospital had vaccines mandated as a requirement of their employment prior to this,” Kaufman said, referring to required vaccinations for diseases like the seasonal flu, Measles, Hepatitis B and others.  

Our Lady of Lourdes Chief Medical Officer Dr. Henry Kaufman responds to anti-vax protests outside the health system's Lafayette campus on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. Kaufman called the protests "demoralizing" for the hospital's staff who are treating record numbers of COVID-19 patients this summer.
Donald Gagnard wearing personal protective equipment (ppe) in the ICU at Lourdes Hospital in Lafayette, LA.  Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

“This mandate of the COVID vaccine is really nothing new,” he added. “What is new is the unprecedented number of critically ill unvaccinated individuals in our hospital.”

The health system has been battling Louisiana’s worst-yet surge of COVID-19 patients in recent weeks as the virus’ delta variant has sent COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations to record levels this summer. 

Just in Acadiana, more than 400 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 this week, pushing local healthcare resources and providers to a near breaking point as they faced the potential devolution to crisis levels of care due to the sheer number of patients needing treatment. 

Four days from crisis:Lafayette hospitals cope with record COVID-19 patients

More than 75% of Our Lady of Lourdes’ nursing staff has at least started a vaccination, and 65% were fully vaccinated as of last week. While the vaccine mandate may push some providers out of employment at OLOL, Kaufman said the facility’s priority is caring for patients in the safest way possible. 

“None of our nurses or team members are expendable. We want to keep everybody here, but we want to do it in the safest possible way,” he said. “We've lost more nurses and team members at this point from COVID infections than we have from any attrition from the vaccination.”

Staff at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette responded to anti-vax protests at the facility Wednesday, Aug. 25, more than three weeks after the system announced a Nov. 30 deadline for employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Kaufman said that seeing demonstrators protest against the health system’s vaccine requirement for its staff was demoralizing for the healthcare workers caring for the facility’s onslaught of COVID-19 patients. 

“It is demoralizing for ICU staff, who are currently on the third floor of the hospital taking care of the critically ill, that are watching this protest from the bedside of the patients who they are actively trying to save their lives,” he said. 

“It is with the highest regard of the safety of our team members and patients that we have a vaccine mandate. The mandate will stand. We will not waver, and we will continue to lead by example.”

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