As wildfires continue to ravage the Western United States, Dr. David Pate, president and CEO of Boise, Idaho-based St. Luke’s Health System, recognized the dedication of staff members as they worked to respond to the community’s health needs.

The original version of this post appeared on Dr. Pate’s blog, “Prescription for Change.” For more stories of excellence in emergency response, explore those highlighted this month by America’s Essential Hospitals.

Faced with a very large and aggressive fire in our area, the outstanding St. Luke’s Wood River (SLWR) leaders, staff members, and physicians put their own safety and concerns for their families, property, homes, and in some cases, pets, aside to demonstrate their commitment to serving the firefighters and the people of their communities at a time of greatest need.

These people are St. Luke’s heroes.

I cannot describe the selflessness of staff who report to work to help care for their communities even though they are worried for their own families and property. We had a number of staff members who found shelter for their families and then called to see if they could come and help at the hospital. Many offered up their own homes in areas that were not subject to the evacuation to those who lived in areas that were.

To provide accountable care to our patients, our clinic nurses have been calling to check on patients with known respiratory illnesses, to remind them to stay indoors and to check on the control of their symptoms. That is true care coordination, and may be why we had a much lower number of patients seeking emergency care for respiratory distress than we would have anticipated.

Additional unsung heroes are our physicians. We had physicians coming in to offer their help on their days off, and some offered to stay in the hospital to ensure they would be available for calls or emergencies.

And so many people worked behind the scenes to care for our caregivers, so they could focus on our patients. Our food and nutrition staff worked tirelessly to prepare meals for their coworkers and those who were working extra hours to care for our patients.

The St. Luke’s Wood River building and maintenance staff have dealt with the additional challenges of continually adjusting the air handling systems of the hospital to minimize the amount of smoke that would get into the hospital’s air circulation and ensured, together with all the amazing firefighters, that the perimeter of the building is safe and secure from the fire.

I cannot end this tribute without crediting our outstanding Air St. Luke’s team. Air St. Luke’s is so much more than just an air ambulance service. They have expertise and training in handling many emergency situations, and their help in planning for the safe transfer of St. Luke’s Wood River patients via Air St. Luke’s ground ambulances to St. Luke’s Magic Valley was extremely helpful and reassuring, since helicopters were not an option due to the visibility issues from the smoke.

I close with a great comment from St. Luke’s Wood River CEO Cody Langbehn. “What makes community hospitals so special is the true feeling of family among the staff. I would like to thank each and every one of the staff at SLWR for their commitment to the patients of the WR Valley and for being a model of how to Take Care Forward in a time of crisis.”

I couldn’t say it better myself. Thanks to all our St. Luke’s heroes for your extraordinary care and caring. You are what St. Luke’s is all about.


David C. Pate, MD, JD
President and CEO
St. Luke’s Health System
Boise, Idaho