Vaccine mandate lawsuit unfairly targets Ascension Sacred Heart

Hate the federal vaccine mandate? Don’t take it out on your local hospital.

The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate is, to say the least, controversial. For some, it’s simply common sense. For others, it’s a flagrant violation of individual rights.

I’m firmly in favor of vaccines, but the anti-mandate argument isn’t completely meritless. Suing hospitals for enforcing it is.

That’s why a recent Northwest Florida Daily News article on a lawsuit filed against Ascension Sacred Heart irked me.

Ascension didn’t mastermind the vax mandate — the federal government did — but the lawsuit targets them all the same and has the potential to do real damage to an institution that has been working around the clock to care for the people of Northwest Florida throughout the pandemic.

Ascension Florida bought Bay Medical in Panama City shortly after Hurricane Michael destroyed it. Rather than scrap it and start over, the hospital system retained all of Bay Medical’s employees and renovated and repaired the hospital, restoring a safety net hospital that’s vital to the Panama City area.

Then the pandemic hit, and the doctors, nurses and countless support staffers at Ascension Sacred Heart have spent the past 18 months riding waves of COVID-19 surges, watching their coworkers and neighbors struggle — and many times die — in the ICU.

But not a day has passed where they didn’t put patients first.

Ascension Florida opened the first two drive through testing sites when the pandemic first hit in March 2020, and they tested nearly 100,000 Floridians between their Panama City and Jacksonville sites at a time when testing was hard to come by. When vaccines became widely available in January, it launched the state’s first hospital-run mass-vaccination clinic and vaccinated nearly 100,000 people throughout Northwest Florida.

Just as hospitals were resuming surgeries, cancer screenings and other care that was deferred or cancelled during the first waves of the pandemic, the contagious COVID-19 Delta variant surged across Florida. Ascension Florida immediately went back to pandemic mode — caring for the sick and vulnerable.

Ascension Sacred Heart even worked with leaders from the Department of Health, the city and the county to lead advocacy efforts to bring a state-run monoclonal antibody treatment center to Pensacola so that hospital staff could return to the bedside.

Although exhausted from the previous 18 months, Ascension Florida’s employees stood up to the challenge and took care of a record number of COVID patients — at the height of the delta surge, every conceivable space in the hospital was converted to a COVID ICU.

Putting aside that most of those patients could have avoided a hospital stay if they got the jab, Ascension’s workforce fought through fatigue. They endured the trauma of watching their coworkers fall sick. They kept caring for the community when the community needed them most.

From the first day of the coronavirus pandemic to now, it has been a leader in the communities it serves.

And it did so without laying off any employees, cutting anyone’s hours or slashing anyone’s pay or benefits. In fact, it poured its heart into improving employee morale by setting up wellness rooms so stressed workers could get a brief respite from their day-to-day struggle. It launched a website and app to make wellness options easily accessible. It set up a behavioral health hotline to help anyone who in need. Chaplains were mobilized to provide an abundance of spiritual support to the religious among Ascension’s workforce.

While many are returning to “normal” life, the pandemic is still very real in hospitals. Another variant could emerge and, if one does, Ascension Florida is ready to support its patients and caregivers with testing, vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments.

Yet now a small band of employees is taking them to court.

And for what? So they can stick it to a safety net hospital that is doing its best to meet a seemingly endless number of challenges wrought by a generational public-health crisis?

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


  • Ross

    November 3, 2021 at 11:10 pm

    This is a sappy, heart-string-pulling article devoid of any substance and lacks even basic analytical thought. Conveniently, you leave out one key element of the lawsuit. The employees are asserting that their natural immunity is superior to medically induced immunity and should be recognized as equal to, or better than, injections. No one is saying that they should have the “freedom to infect” patients. But if Ascension will not recognize their natural immunity, then they have every right to sue for wrongful termination.
    It’s opinion pieces like this that cause mistrust in MSM. When you hack journalists stop spinning the narrative and report objectively, maybe you can rebuild public trust.

    • Steve

      November 4, 2021 at 9:22 am

      You say this knowing that the vaccinated still spread the disease. Open your eyes

  • Matthew Hays

    November 4, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    What your describing is Fascisms. These employers should be standing up for their employers and sue the government?
    No they are enforcing it, they should be sued as a fascist arm of the government. This isn’t a law this is a bureaucratic tyrants dream.

  • Lisgo Brandon

    November 4, 2021 at 6:16 pm

    Ascension has refused to honor Religious and Medical exemptions across ALL of its facilities. As others have posted, this is fascisms. Ascension did not pay me when I got COVID working in their ER. I had to take two weeks off and use MY HARD EARNED PTO. Ascension is looking at numbers and politics. They do not care about their employees, I have first hand knowledge. This has been proven by their low wages, high patient ratios, and lack of resources. I hope other states start lawsuits as well. I also hope, as the November 12th deadline approaches that Ascension, who employs over 160,000 healthcare works, making it the largest hospital organization, loses thousands of employees which will include myself and several hundred more in my critical level 1 hospital.

    • Patricia

      November 13, 2021 at 10:49 am

      ⬆️ True ⬆️
      Ascension Sacred Heart made associates prove their COVID infection was from working directly with COVID patients. The assumption was that if we became sick, we would not be paid. Many drained their PTO. After being told to quarantine for 2 weeks from a workplace COVID exposure, I did not receive a paycheck. Eventually, no one spoke of these exposures (patients found to be Covid+ after we had been providing care for days). Ascension Sacred Heart certainly did not notify me or my colleagues of known workplace exposures. Reminder, ASCENSION is in charge. The suits make the decisions, and it’s about the bottom line $, period.

  • Stuart

    November 5, 2021 at 6:41 pm

    Ascension is run by weak, spineless leaders. They do not care about their employees and this ridiculous “mandate” from the Biden administration has nothing to do with it. They have drawn a hard line against thousands of hardworking employees. Who were cited IN THIS VERY ARTICLE, working hard and providing care without being vaccinated for over a year. This article is so ignorant.

  • Sacred Fart

    November 10, 2021 at 9:37 pm

    I’m curious. When will the people enforcing these mandates present to the public their vaccine passports? Why isn’t this being addressed? Simply put rules for thee but not for me.

  • KK

    November 12, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Your defending Ascension and your ‘facts’ are wrong. I am an employee and Ascension threw down their mandate in early August and Biden threw his down on September 9th. Ascension is definitely not taking Biden’s lead they made a choice and it put icing on the cake they are denying religious exemptions. I know amazing employees, healthcare hero’s, that we are going to lose their jobs today because of this insanity. We are losing people who are 100% remote and have no patient care. For months they had the Pope on on home page almost portraying a false narrative that the vaccine was Catholic doctrine, it is not! Please if you are going to give big giant like Ascension a get out of jail free card actually dig for facts. Amazing people are being walked out today based on a false narrative.

Comments are closed.


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