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St. Luke's Health System takes moment of silence for George Floyd, equality
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St. Luke's Health System takes moment of silence for George Floyd, equality

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TWIN FALLS — It was less than 10 minutes, but the silence felt like eternity.

Staff across the St. Luke’s Health System along with some other health care organizations in Idaho paused for eight minutes and 46 seconds late Friday morning in remembrance of George Floyd and to support social justice and equality.

“That’s a long time to have someone’s knee in your neck,” Arlen Blaylock, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center as the employees stood up again.

Floyd died in Minneapolis last month when Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled into his neck as Floyd cried out that he couldn’t breathe as seen in a viral video. Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

The health system said it did not consider its moment of silence a demonstration, but rather a show of support.

“This is not a protest or a fight,” Blaylock said. “We are not anti-anyone. We are for everyone.”

The moment of silence comes after lawmakers across the country consider declaring racism a public health emergency. St. Luke’s employees said conversations about race and how to better care for people of color started after Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests.

St. Luke’s mission is to improve the health of the communities it serves, and therefore it must reflect on bias and inequity in the health system to be able to do that, hospital administration said.

“We know black and brown patients in the U.S. have worse health outcomes than white patients,” Joshua Kern, vice president of medical affairs at St. Luke’s Twin Falls, Jerome and Wood River, said. “Our job is to help solve that issue.”

People don’t have to look very far to see the inequities in the health system, employees said.

“Even here in the Magic Valley, we see the Latino population being disproportionately impacted by COVID,” Kern said. “So even locally you’re forced to take a step back and say, ‘how can we do better?’”

The action St. Luke’s took was not a political statement, Kern said. It is a reflection of the reality in the communities St. Luke’s serves.

“Is it political?” Kern said. “Is it political to say black and brown people have worse health outcomes? That’s a statement of fact ... The big question is why haven’t we been talking about it more.”

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