(The Center Square) – Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is leading a third multi-state coalition in a lawsuit against a federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates, this time for health care workers who serve Medicare and Medicaid patients.
Schmitt and fellow Republican Attorney General Doug Peterson of Nebraska gathered a group of 10 states to file a lawsuit on Oct. 29 against President Joe Biden’s administration for a vaccine mandate for federal contractors and federally contracted employees. Schmitt co-led a group of 11 states in a lawsuit on Nov. 5 to stop the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s mandate on private employers with 100 or more employees.
Peterson and Schmitt filed Wednesday’s 58-page complaint against a vaccination mandate for those health care workers funded by the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Joining them are attorneys general from Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and New Hampshire.
“Requiring healthcare workers to get a vaccination or face termination is unconstitutional and unlawful, and could exacerbate healthcare staffing shortages to the point of collapse, especially in Missouri’s rural areas,” Schmitt said in a statement.
The lawsuit quotes a chief executive officer of a rural hospital in Missouri who also hosts a radio show on a St. Louis talk station describing itself as providing “analysis and opinion through a conservative and libertarian lens.”
“There were people in the hospital that freely shared that if the vaccine mandate happened … they would not work here,” Dr. Randy Tobler, CEO of Scotland County Hospital in Memphis, Mo., was quoted in the lawsuit. “That’s just something they weren’t going to put in their body.”
The lawsuit comes after most of Missouri’s hospitals required employees to complete COVID-19 vaccinations. The St. Louis region’s largest hospital systems – Mercy, BJC HealthCare, SSM Health and St. Luke’s – in July announced all workers would be required to get the vaccine or get tested weekly. Those not complying faced disciplinary action, including termination.
Instead of the vaccine mandate exacerbating the current shortage of health care workers, Dr. Clay Dunagan, BJC senior vice president, chief clinical officer and head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, told KWMU radio the mandate didn’t negatively influence the workforce.
“That turns out to be a very tiny part of the workforce, and it’s really not compromising health care operations,” Dunagan said.