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Hospital swaps cleaning service

Health care: Newhall Memorial says it will try to retain staff as Maryland-based company takes over

Posted: April 14, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 14, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital switches to a new housekeeping and food-preparation service next month, changing subcontractors after more than 10 years with the same firm.

On May 15, Maryland-based firm Sodexo Inc., which serves more than 1 million meals every day in the United States, takes over the responsibility of managing 130 hourly employees working in food services, housekeeping and engineering for Newhall Memorial.

The hospital did not renew its contract with Integrated Support Solutions Inc., or ISSI, the firm that has managed housekeeping staff at the hospital since 2000.

Hospital administrators asked Sodexo to hire as many existing staff as possible, spokeswoman Andie Bogdan said.

The 130 workers who currently deliver food and mop floors at Newhall Memorial are expected to be hired, she said, “As long as they pass a drug screening, immigration-work-status check and background check.”

About 13 current support staff managers are being invited to compete for management positions if, and when, they become available.

“This is a larger, more experienced company, and (they) are national leaders in what they do,” Bogdan said.

Important jobs
Those who prepare food at Newhall Memorial ensure nutrition remains part of the hospital’s “care plan” for patients, Bogdan said. Meals can be nearly as important as medication for a patient’s recovery.

“Hospital food is not typically gourmet cooking,” she said. “But, we have to ensure the right diet for people. Some people need low salt, for example, so they need that special attention.”

As for housekeeping, workers make sure hospital hallways are uncluttered and patient rooms clean. Cleanliness is of paramount importance in a hospital setting, Bogdan said.

Changing housekeeping companies has nothing to do with the service ISSI provided, she said.

“They’ve been here as long as I’ve been here — at least 10 years,” she said. “It’s been an amicable relationship.”

Workers’ compensation
Cindy Moore, risk manager for ISSI, was asked about unconfirmed reports received by The Signal that the contractor change hinges on the high number of workers’ compensation claims filed by housekeeping staff.

Workers’ compensation would not be an issue since hospital administrators wouldn’t know about any of claims filed for work-related injuries, Moore said.

“That would not have been a reason,” Moore said in a conference phone call with company officials last week. “The hospital is not privy to our workers’ comp because we are an independent company.

“I don’t see how that would fall into play with regards to whether our contract would have been renewed with them.”

World presence
Sodexo provides “service solutions” to military bases, “remote sites,” corporate offices, hospitals and schools across the country and around the world.

Speaking from the firm’s Maryland office, company spokesman Jon Friedman said in the case of hospitals, “It all comes down to the patients.”

“Doctors and nurses work some crazy hours, some bizarre shifts — many hours, long shifts,” he said. “So, in order to sustain that level of care, we try to take care of them taking care of themselves.

“When we train our people, we tell them: ‘You’re part of the health care team. You’re not just serving food, you’re part of the success of the hospital.’”

Friedman said the firm can transform hospital cafeterias into “holistic healing environments” offering natural lighting and waterfall features to refresh health care workers.

It also can provide an in-hospital minimart, selling things such as eggs, milk and bread, Friedman said.

“We go beyond the gift shop,” he said. “If, after a long shift, a nurse needs to buy a dozen eggs, it’s right there in the hospital.”


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