judge rejects nurses’ anti-vaxx lawsuit | Winchester Star


WINCHESTER – Three Winchester Medical Center employees who refused to be vaccinated against the coronavirus sued unsuccessfully to keep their jobs.

The lawsuit was filed Monday against Valley Health System, the six-hospital chain that includes WMC, on behalf of registered nurses Rebecca Ashworth and Kayla Cox and certified nursing assistant Lori Swartz. All Valley Health employees had until midnight Tuesday to get vaccinated or fired, unless they were given medical or religious exemptions.

Judge William Warner Eldridge IV on Tuesday dismissed the lawsuit in Winchester Circuit Court. He sided with Valley Health, whose attorneys argued that plaintiffs needed permission from the Virginia Attorney General’s Civil Rights Office to bring an action under the Human Rights Act. man from Virginia.

“The VHRA does not allow a plaintiff to seek temporary relief in court until” after a notice of discrimination charge is issued, “” lawyer Andrew S. Baugher wrote, citing a June verdict rendered by the Norfolk Circuit Court which ruled in favor of the town of Norfolk. “And then, ‘the petition must contain a certification by the Agency that the particular matter presents exceptional circumstances and irreparable harm will result from unlawful discrimination in the absence of temporary relief.'”

The complaint was filed by attorney E. Scott Lloyd, a Front Royal city councilor and former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement under the Trump administration. Lloyd, who said the Civil Rights Office did not respond to his client’s complaints, claimed Valley Health was using an opaque system to determine which employees would benefit from religious exemptions. Lloyd – who, as a city councilor in July, tried unsuccessfully to bar Front Royal employers from firing employees who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 – said many Valley Health employees had benefited from exemptions and that its clients were discriminated against.

“The complainants are part of the collection of employees whose religious beliefs have been found to be less acceptable by Valley Health than the religious beliefs of other employees,” Lloyd wrote. “VHS has a process in place for its religious exemptions that has not been able to conduct a meaningful analysis of its [employees’] religious beliefs.”

Hospital spokeswoman Carol S. Weare said in an email Tuesday that only 5% of hospital employees had been granted medical or religious exemptions. The hospital has approximately 2,700 full-time and 300 part-time employees, including approximately 1,400 RNs and 200 RNs.

Swartz said getting the vaccine violated his Christian beliefs. Because fetal cell lines from aborted fetuses from the 1990s were used in vaccine development, Swartz said the vaccine did not “glorify” his God and violate the “sanctity of life and the law of life. Old Testament “.

COVID-19 has killed 4.7 million people, including some 677,000 Americans as of Monday, according to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. But Cox said she was safe.

“My creator designed me with a natural immune system,” she said.

The lawsuit comes at a time when the highly contagious delta variant has flooded the WMC and hospitals across the country with patients, most of whom are unvaccinated.

“The growing number of COVID patients continues to strain the resources of our hospitals, doctor’s offices, emergency care centers and other patient care settings,” said Mark Nantz, CEO and President of Valley Health, in a statement. September 13 press release. “And to further emphasize the importance of vaccinations, we must note that the vast majority of COVID-positive patients in our intensive care unit are not vaccinated or have not completed their vaccination series.”

Weare said about 85% of WMC’s 103 COVID-19 patients on Tuesday were unvaccinated. At the peak of the February pandemic, before the vaccine was widely available, there were 164 COVID patients in all of Valley Health hospitals.

In addition to emotional and physical stress, the COVID-19 outbreak has put the health of WMC employees at risk. Weare said about 100 hospital workers are in isolation due to COVID-19 infection or in quarantine due to exposure to an infected person.

About 182 million Americans, or about 54% of the population, are fully immunized, including 5.1 million Virginians.

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