TWIN FALLS, Idaho — More than a week after St. Luke's Magic Valley posted a controversial photo, the internal investigation is still ongoing and there are no answers as to what actions have been taken.
KTVB reached out to St. Luke’s the first week of February for an update on the investigation, however, they said they could not provide any additional information on the internal investigation.
In a statement sent to KTVB, St. Luke's responded:
“Because this is a personnel matter, we don’t have additional information to share on the internal investigation. As we said in our initial statement, we will take appropriate actions based on our findings.”
St. Luke’s said their Senior Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion met this week with Mario Piles, the Director of UIdaho’s Black Cultural Center, but did not elaborate when asked what was discussed during the meet-up.
St. Luke’s also told KTVB: “St. Luke’s Senior Director of Diversity, Equity and inclusion hadn’t met Mr. Pile prior to seeing him in your story on KTVB. That gave him an opportunity to reach out and introduce himself. They’re meeting for breakfast tomorrow to get to know each other.”
On Tuesday, St. Luke’s Magic Valley posted a picture showing off a medical tool unique to the Pacific Northwest region. In the photo, the second employee from the left displays what people are calling a ‘white power’ hand sign.
The post caused concerns for some community members including Mario Piles.
"I think people want to use words without understanding the historical context to those words. There is known violence towards Black people when that word 'white power' is used. Seeing any person in the medical field do something like this reinforces a belief,” Piles said.
Several anonymous community members said they recognize the hand sign as "gotcha" or the "circle game," where one person makes a circle with their hands and another person looks at the hand and receives a punch to the shoulder. Piles said he believes it was more than just a game.
"Words mean and matter and the timing of them have significant influence on people perceptions, our safety, our consciousness of who we are," he said. "To think we can reduce it down is to minimize the oppression that this country has experienced on so many different levels.”
St. Luke's has since removed the post from social media and issued a statement saying, in part, "When we became aware of the image and the negative meaning many people have assigned to it, we quickly removed it and initiated an internal investigation. We will take appropriate actions based on the findings."
St. Luke’s told KTVB in a separate statement that they provide a variety of required and recommended diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) trainings in the form of online courses and small group debrief sessions.
"We start with the trainings, and I think those trainings need to be a mixture of Black, brown, white, Asian. We all need to be at the table. It can't just be hiring a DEI person or a chief CEO of diversity who has no authority,” Piles said.
KTVB also spoke to Amy Spurlock, Boise State University's associate divisional dean and chief nursing administrator. Spurlock did not want to comment on the post, but did say the diversity history and training for medical professionals starts in the classroom.
"Historically there have been nationwide differences in health outcomes depending upon race and ethnicity. There is current research that demonstrates that. That is something we educate our students about,” she said.
Spurlock said the medical code of ethics teaches students to look out for the patients and each other.
Pile said it’s important for medical professionals, and for everyone, to speak out when they see something questionable.
"Every doctor who believes there is a difference needs to be speaking out about this and needs to make this very clear -- like crystal clear,” Piles said.
St. Luke’s was not able to comment on the status of the employee since the investigation is still active, but Piles said an apology statement is not enough.
"Thank you for the apology, yes, I appreciate that. Thank you for owning that. We can now put that aside," Piles said. "Let's move forward. How are you going to treat your patients, what are your hiring practices, do you have a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) chief officer, and what authority does that person have?”
The complete text of the statements from St. Luke's Magic Valley is below:
Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023
"A photo showing a St. Luke’s team member making an inappropriate hand gesture that is often interpreted as highly offensive briefly circulated on social media recently. When we became aware of the image and the negative meaning many people have assigned to it, we quickly removed it and initiated an internal investigation. We will take appropriate actions based on the findings.
"The hand gesture has often been associated with white supremacy. We condemn any act that could be perceived as racist, discriminatory, threatening, demeaning or dehumanizing.
"St. Luke’s is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, our values and our mission to care for all. We continuously strive to align our actions to ensure a safe, caring and welcoming environment for everyone in our communities."
Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023 (response to question about approach to diversity, equity and inclusion training/education)
"St. Luke’s provides a variety of diversity, equity and inclusion training and information for team members, from comprehensive online courses and small group debrief sessions to guest speakers and resources about important dates, celebrations and holidays that help us create an inclusive and welcoming environment."
Wednesday, Feb.1, 2023 (response to an inquiry of an update)
“Because this is a personnel matter, we don’t have additional information to share on the internal investigation. As we said in our initial statement, we will take appropriate actions based on our findings.
“St. Luke’s Senior Director of Diversity, Equity and inclusion hadn’t met Mr. Pile prior to seeing him in your story on KTVB. That gave him an opportunity to reach out and introduce himself. They’re meeting for breakfast tomorrow to get to know each other.”
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