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'The pandemic isn't over': Exhausted health care workers plead Idahoans to take precautions

Posted at 12:26 PM, Sep 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-26 22:13:40-04

BOISE, Idaho — "The pandemic isn't over."

That's the message from overwhelmed and overworked health care workers across the Treasure Valley.

In the intensive care unit at Saint Alphonsus in Boise, a majority of beds are now occupied with COVID-positive patients who chose not to get vaccinated.

At this point, Dr. Meghan McInerney says the deaths feel heavier because they're mostly preventable.

"Sometimes patients still say, 'I don't care what you tell me, I still think the vaccine is a hoax, I don't even think COVID is real,' and that's always hard to take," Dr. McInerney said.

RELATED: Daughter of patient hospitalized on ventilator urges Idahoans to get vaccinated

"I had a patient last week who told me it still wasn't real, and that doesn't change anything that we did," Saint Alphonsus registered nurse Dan Martin said. "We're still going to care for the patients."

These health care workers continue doing everything they can to help Idahoans beat COVID-19.

A sign that greets hospital staff as they enter the building at the start of their shifts changes regularly, reflecting the number of COVID patients treated and released from the hospital.

"The health care workers here, the physicians, nurses, techs, they went into health care to help people and to really try and save people's lives," Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Andrew Southard said. "When you go home and you hear things like, 'the virus isn't real, and this is made up, people are just doing it for money,' it really gets to the core of who these people are."

Health care workers once celebrated for their service are now feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and demoralized.

"I know the balloons and banners of 2020; that was fantastic! We don't need that now, what we need is just to hear that you still believe in us," Dr. Carolyn McFarlane. "What I'm seeing across the board: nurses, CNAs, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, physicians, both inpatient and outpatient, is that they're pushing it to the max."

After 12+ hour shifts, staff sometimes have difficulty shaking some of the images they see on a regular basis, as more and more COVID patients in the ICU lose their battle with the virus.

"If there's a case where we're all rushed in and the patient is young and we're doing chest compressions or trying to save somebody, you know, when you close your eyes, my brain will try to reintroduce those visions over and over again," Dr. McInerney said. "So similar to how people describe PTSD."

And still, they keep coming back day after day only to leave work and see Idahoans who aren't taking precautions to keep themselves out of the hospital.

"I guess it's just been a little frustrating because people are not masking, not taking any precautions, or there's new concerts or events that are going on that weren't there last year, which are making it a lot harder for people," Martin said.

RELATED: Inside the Intensive Care Unit at Saint Alphonsus

So how can you help? Listen to the experts. Take the virus seriously. And thank a health care worker for their work and dedication during this difficult time.

"This isn't over," Martin said. "People are suffering day in and day out and we're trying to do the best care we can, but we only have so many resources to do that."