TULSA, Okla. — A Tulsa District Court Judge blocked Ascension Healthcare from firing unvaccinated workers who filed religious exemptions.
Dozens of St. John employees gathered outside of the hospital Friday to protest the mandatory vaccine mandate before the judge granted the temporary restraining order.
"It makes me feel like maybe there's hope," Mona Keeline said.
A glimpse of hope for hundreds of Ascension St. John healthcare workers whose jobs were on the line for not meeting the vaccine requirements by their health network.
“I know that many people are so dissatisfied now with Ascension that they wouldn’t go back,” Keeline said.
A temporary restraining order filed by Attorney General O'Connor and approved by a Tulsa District Judge could now keep them from losing their jobs.
The Attorney General released the following statement:
“This evening, the Tulsa District Court granted the State’s Application for Temporary Restraining Order in our case to keep Ascension Healthcare from carrying out its plan to fire employees who were unfairly denied religious exemptions from their nationwide COVID-19 vaccination mandate. This is a win for religious freedom and our office will continue to fight against unlawful religious discrimination.”
Keeline was among the dozens who protested the St. John's vaccine mandate. She worked at the hospital for 17 years, but left her job last month after she said she was forced to choose between her job and her personal freedoms.
“Whatever your reason is, you have a right to make that decision, it’s made me really sad. I have the ability to not stay, but many don’t and they’re doing something to themselves that they totally think it’s not the right thing for them for whatever reasons,” Keeline said.
She said many St. John employees submitted medical and religious exemptions but they were denied.
“Yes, many people put in exemptions, and from a Catholic hospital, you would have thought that you would see more acceptance of those religious exemptions, but even medical exemptions they are not accepting,” Keeline said.
She was not the only one disappointed. Laura Dobbins also echoed her frustration.
“I feel betrayed, I feel kind of a sense of discrimination because they’re saying that I’m an increased risk to the patients. However, I’ve had COVID, and I’ve had active antibodies and my antibody levels are actually higher than some of my vaccinated co-workers so it really doesn’t make sense that I'm an increased risk,” she said.
Ascension St. John issued the following statement:
"We want patients to be assured and comforted with the knowledge that our doctors and nurses, other clinicians and associates... will either be vaccinated or be complying with additional infection prevention protocols. Patients and their loved ones should have that peace of mind."
Ascension St. John tells 2 News they are communicating directly with associates and employees about their shifts and employment.
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