Gov. Brad Little at Saint Alphonsus

Idaho Gov. Brad Little, second from left, hands out thank-you notes from area children to health care workers at Saint Alphonsus Hospital in Nampa on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Little is touring hospitals and ICUs around the state this week to personally thank health care workers.

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BOISE — Idaho Gov. Brad Little has been quietly touring hospitals and intensive care units across the state this week to personally express his appreciation to health care workers amid the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Little visited the ICU at Saint Alphonsus Hospital on Tuesday, and the VA Medical Center in Boise on Wednesday. He’s scheduled to visit eastern Idaho on Thursday and North Idaho on Friday.

The visits follow a proclamation Little issued on Monday declaring October “Idaho Health Care Worker Appreciation Month.” His press secretary, Marissa Morrison, said the governor wanted to “honor the health care workers and all of their efforts over the past 19 months.”

His move comes as reports have increased, both in Idaho and across the nation, of health care workers being harassed as they try to save their critically ill COVID-19 patients, by everyone from angry protesters, to family members who accuse hospitals or workers of killing their relatives, to patients themselves.

“Some of the disrespect that’s been going on in the state has been in the forefront of his mind,” Morrison said.

The AP reported on Sept. 28 that a constant barrage of misinformation has Idaho health care workers facing increased animosity from some patients and community members. Kootenai Health spokeswoman Caiti Bobbitt told the AP it’s gotten so bad in northern Idaho that some hospital employees are scared to go to the grocery store if they haven’t changed out of their scrubs.

“Our health care workers are almost feeling like Vietnam veterans, scared to go into the community after a shift,” Bobbitt said.

Similar instances are happening across the state, said Brian Whitlock, president of the Idaho Hospital Association.

Here is the full text of the governor’s proclamation:

“WHEREAS, staff at Idaho hospitals and long-term care facilities are overwhelmed and working tirelessly and heroically to meet the needs of patients and residents during the COVID-19 pandemic; and

WHEREAS, health care staff are in the midst of an unprecedented and devastating wave of critically ill patients and are exhausting all resources to expand and deliver health care to them; and

WHEREAS, these health care heroes are putting the health, safety and wellbeing of these patients and residents in their charge ahead of their own; and

WHEREAS, these health care heroes continue to respond to and care for each patient, despite the challenges, despair, and the unknown; and

WHEREAS, through their dedication and fortitude, against a devastating enemy, they work together to save lives and help guide Idahoans in all their health care needs; and

WHEREAS, health care workers deserve our respect, appreciation, and steadfast support for being there for every Idahoan during these difficult times.

NOW THEREFORE, I, BRAD LITTLE, Governor of Idaho, do hereby proclaim October 2021 to be Idaho Health Care Worker Appreciation Month in Idaho, and I ask all Idahoans to step up and speak out in support of the health care workers in their communities, to remind them they are critical to our health and well-being, and to show them they have our utmost admiration.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State of Idaho at the Capitol in Boise on this 12th day of October in the year of our Lord two thousand and twenty-one.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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