HELENA – On Friday the Montana Nurses Association filed a motion to join a lawsuit by a coalition of medical providers and patients that seeks to invalidate Montana law that bars medical organizations from requiring employees to be vaccinated, saying it violates federal law and the U.S. and Montana constitution.
The original suit was filed September in U.S. District Court in Missoula with the Montana Medical Association as lead plaintiff. It challenges parts of HB 702 – passed by Republican majorities at the 2021 Legislature – saying it illegally prevents physicians, their offices, and hospitals from providing a safe environment for patients.
The nurses’ suit comes as Montana faces the worst rates for hospitalizations and death from COVID-19 in the United States, according to data from the Mayo Clinic.
“Nurses are Montana’s frontline healthcare providers, and we have a professional commitment and ethical duty to ensure that Montana nurses are safe at work and can focus on what they care most about: providing high quality safe healthcare to our patients,” said Vicky Byrd, MSN, RN, CEO of the Montana Nurses Association.
Plaintiffs have asked the judge to permanently block enforcement of portions of the law, but does not seek to invalidate the law for all businesses. Rather, it asks only to prevent it from applying to physicians and offices where they work. It also does not challenge the portion of the law that prohibits businesses from refusing service to people because of their vaccination status.
“Immunizations are not new to nurses and other healthcare professionals,” Byrd said. “Immunization is one of the many ways we have practiced safely in all healthcare environments. HB 702 compromises the safety of patients and the safety of the nurses and healthcare providers.”