By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming state Sen. Anthony Bouchard joined health care workers in Worland on Monday to protest a vaccine mandate issued by Banner Health, a health care company which has a facility in the community.
Protestors held signs which read “Coercion is not consent” and “Freedom not force” and featured comments by Bouchard, who is also running for U.S. Congress.
“It was great to stand with the patriots in protest of Banner Health’s ‘Jab or else’ policy in [Worland],” Bouchard wrote on his Facebook page. “The healthcare industrial complex needs to get out of WY! I hear other hospitals are recruiting. This could be a big loss for the community if they force it on the employees.”
Banner Health, one of the largest U.S. health system employers, is requiring its employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by November 1 or lose their jobs. The organization announced this mandate in July.
Dr. Ronald Burinsky, a physician from Basin, Wyoming, supported the Labor Day protest and legislation to thwart the requirement.
“Pass the law, like in Montana, to make mandatory vaccines and other mandates illegal,” Burinsky wrote on Bouchard’s page.
Earlier this year, Montana passed a law — which was widely condemned by the medical community — that does not allow for private employers to require vaccinations.
“This is against everything we’ve ever known or believed about public health,” Dr. Pamela Cutler, president of the Montana Medical Association, told the Associated Press. “I believe it’s a travesty now and it needs to be fixed so that we can make our offices safe for patients and our coworkers.”
Banner Health operates multiple health care systems in Wyoming, including the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper and clinics in Torrington, Wheatland, Guernsey, Douglas, Worland and more.
No other Wyoming-owned hospitals or health care systems in the state have implemented a vaccine mandate, although some, such as Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, have created incentive programs for employees who do get vaccinated.
Banner is implementing the requirement for several reasons, including the rise of the Delta variant of coronavirus, the need to protect its patients and workforce and to prepare for flu season.
In July, Banner launched an incentive program for employees who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including a lottery that saw 10 vaccinated employees receive $10,000 each.
Banner has also provided its employees with pay for time away to get vaccinated, mileage reimbursement and points toward its wellness program that offers discounts on health insurance.
Banner Health employs roughly 52,000 people throughout the U.S., operating in six states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming.
Bouchard has been a proponent of alternative methods of combating the virus, such as encouraging the use of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, neither of which are recommended for use against COVID by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, the use of ivermectin has been touted by some popular figures, including podcast superstar Joe Rogan — who the New York Times recently called “too big to cancel.”
Rogan, who signed a $100 million podcasting contract last year with Spotify, recently announced he has recovered from COVID and credits usage of ivermectin, a deworming veterinary drug used on cows and horses but is also prescribed to target parasitic infections in humans.