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The 'Why' Lifts Us All

By Dr. David C. Pate, News and Community
November 19, 2013

During significant change and uncertainty, such as the transformation work that St. Luke’s is engaged in, it’s helpful to reflect on your “why.”

Why did you become part of this journey? Why is changing health care important to you?

I have shared my “why:” my grandchildren, and my concern that if St. Luke’s Health System doesn’t lead the way in transforming health care, healthcare insurance may be too expensive for them, access to healthcare providers may not be timely for them, they may not receive evidence-based best care, and they may not get the healthcare services they need due to cost concerns. Any of these factors would increase the chance of them suffering preventable harm. 

 I keep many pictures of my grandkids in my office to remind me at low points why I am working to fix what is wrong with health care. In today's post, St. Luke's McCall Chief Executive Officer Mike Fenello shares his “why” and some of the great things McCall's dedicated physicians, staff, and volunteers are doing to Take Care Forward for their rural communities.  Enjoy!

I grew up certain that health care was the right profession for me. My father was a primary care physician and my mother was a registered nurse. Through their stories and examples of caring, I developed my “why.”

Throughout St. Luke’s, people are reflecting on their “why” and the sources of purpose, joy, and inspiration derived from our work. Spontaneous hallway conversations and lunches with employees are among my most refreshing moments at work, because it’s during these moments that I hear about the dozens of reasons for people’s commitment.

Valley, Adams, and Idaho counties, the primary service area for St. Luke’s McCall, all have high uninsured and poverty rates and higher percentages of seniors. And when I think how vital a critical access hospital in McCall is to their well-being, I am charged to do my best. It is a great joy for me to create opportunities for every employee to transform the way health care is delivered for the people we serve, and I am continually awed by the innovation, courage, and diligence our employees display.

For example, largely on their own initiative, our emergency and cardiopulmonary departments decided jointly that they could drastically exceed the national standard of 10 minutes for the elapsed time from when patients present with chest pain at the ER until they receive an EKG.

They set a lofty goal, designed new processes and staffing, practiced, practiced, and practiced some more, and reduced our average time by more than half, and well under the national standard! That’s inspiring.

Our auxiliary's thrift shop pours nearly $200,000 annually into better health, better care, and lower costs. That’s a fifth of a million dollars, earned primarily from selling 25-cent to $3 items. Many of the volunteers cleaning, sorting, pricing, and selling these items are in their 80s, putting in four-hour shifts at these volunteer activities. That inspires me. They live to make life better for others.

Our chief of staff, ER physician Jen Gray, makes time to volunteer in our free Community Care Clinic and urges me to find additional ways the hospital can partner with the clinic to assist their patients, hard-working people of limited financial means who fall through the healthcare cracks. Inspiring.

The hospital’s foundation secured an innovative grant, Brighter Smiles, that enables Valley County residents to receive dental work on a sliding scale of payment. This, too, warms my heart.

When our community health educator partnered with the Valley County 4-H educator to host an after-school nutrition program at Donnelly’s elementary school, dozens of students learned how to make healthy meals. That’s transforming health care today with our eyes on the future.

These acts of transforming health are little things we do with a big heart to improve the experience of the patients we serve, and we are fortunate and proud to be part of a larger system capable of changing health care. Small improvements are at the core of what we do and are replicated hundreds of times by thousands of people throughout St. Luke’s Health System. Roll all of that up and it’s the transformation that needs to happen.

Encouraged. That’s how I felt recently discussing healthcare possibilities with Valley County’s three commissioners, all of them fourth-generation ranchers and farmers. They are passionate and astute about helping the county’s medically disenfranchised. 

We are not traveling the path of healthcare transformation alone. Many local stakeholders are expecting St. Luke’s to lead the way, and they support our efforts because they recognize this is the right thing to do. 

Let’s share more often the reasons, the “why,” that give us purpose and joy in improving health and the quality of life for the people we serve. These stories are a wave of motivation that lifts us all.

About The Author

David C. Pate, M.D., J.D., is president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho. Dr. Pate joined the System in 2009. He received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.

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St. Luke's McCall Medical Center
1000 State St.
McCall, ID 83638
(208) 634-2221