The head of the one of Louisiana's largest hospitals urged his employees Wednesday to ask their state representatives and senators not to support a right-wing Republican effort to revoke the Democratic governor’s orders aimed at slowing the fast spread of the often deadly coronavirus.

“This would have devastating impacts on our health system,” wrote Scott Wester in an email blast to employees sent at about 9 a.m. concerning the petition that had been gaining momentum recently. Wester is the chief executive officer of the Our of Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. 

“Legislators must hear from frontline healthcare workers,” Wester wrote, asking employees to email their opposition to the petition.

July 15, 2020 Memo to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center employees asking for their help to oppose Republican faction's efforts to end

The Lake hospitals in Baton Rouge are part of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, which also have facilities in Bogalusa, Lafayette and Monroe. The heads of those hospitals sent similar emails to their employees on Wednesday.

About 14,000 people work for the system’s hospitals statewide and about 1,000 had contacted their legislators by the end of business Wednesday, according to a hospital spokesman.

Gov. John Bel Edwards directives to “stay at home” starting in March, effectively closing businesses and limiting the size of gatherings, prompted a faction of Republican legislators to push a petition that would effectively end all coronavirus restrictions in the state.

The petition, circulated by Republican Shreveport Rep. Alan Seabaugh, needs 53 signatures to repeal the governor’s public health emergency declaration. Though Seabaugh has said he is close, not enough legislators have yet signed.

Edwards latest decision to close bars and mandate everyone wear a mask invigorated the group of Republican lawmakers are continuing to gain momentum for their petition. Attorney General Jeff Landry, a frequent critic of Edwards, issued an opinion Wednesday calling the latest directive unconstitutional.

Officials in the state’s health department expect the mask mandate will help slow the spread of the virus. But cases and hospitalizations are expected to continue rising for some time, because of lags between when someone is infected and when they test positive and potentially end up in a hospital.

Wester's memo argues that revoking the governor’s declaration would preclude the hospitals from continuing to coordinate with federal and local authorities on assessment, mitigation, and response to COVID-19. Further, he writes, the Louisiana Department of Health would no longer have authority to decontaminate facilities determined to be a danger from virus outbreak, and lead to uncertainty for patients with private insurance that are now mandated to cover COVID-19 treatment.

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.