If there were a Nobel Prize for laundry service, the Racine County Board would have awarded it Monday to Superior Health Linens.
The board's Health and Human Development Committee/Ridgewood Care Center Trustees finally had "Laundry service/Superior Linen" on its meeting agenda -- after resisting doing so for months -- and members spent much of this months' 35-minute meeting extolling the virtues of the laundry company that had been accused of mingling clean and dirty linens, and that was just awarded its professional accreditation some 10 months after signing a contract that indicated it already had it -- at least until the county wrote that provision out of the contract four months ex post facto.
But all that was forgotten and forgiven Monday, as County Board members, a longtime Ridgewood resident, and the facility's administrator all provided testimonials about Superior Health Linens' service, its plant's efficiency, its workers' professionalism in their new uniforms... it went on and on.
The love fest was so hot and heavy one was tempted to tell them all to get a room...
The meeting began with a short statement during the three minutes set aside for "Citizen Comments" by District 3 Supervisor Diane Lange, who has been trying to get Superior Health Linens on the agenda for a 30-minute discussion since March. She settled Monday, not happily, for a short statement decrying the committee's refusal to allow her to bring the matter up since February. "The process needs to be addressed," she said, but agreed that it is a "good thing" that Superior has achieved accreditation.
John Shultz, a Ridgewood resident since 1981, said linens used to be stained, and sometimes there had been shortages, but since Superior Health Linens got the laundry contract four years ago "there's never been a shortage of linens, there's been plenty; everything's been fine."
Fran Petrick, Ridgewood administrator, said, "I've made two unannounced visits to Superior's plant; I brought my infection control nurse to the plant. I was really pleased the last time we went; I saw many changes. I didn't see any problems with cross-contamination. I have absolutely no problem with their service."
District 19 Supervisor Joseph F. Bellante, Jr., who when he was Ridgewood board chairman in March cancelled a scheduled meeting on the controversy because County Executive Bill McReynolds couldn't attend, said "I visited the plant in February. From a layman's perspective, I have no problems."
District 2 Supervisor Gaynell Dyess described her visit to Superior's Milwaukee plant this way: "I was so impressed. It was super. I feel it's a great place."
District 14 Supervisor Michael J. Miklasevich, the new Ridgewood trustees' chair, said the two issues are the quality of the product provided residents, and the price the county pays for the service. "Both are being addressed," he said.
The meeting was also attended by Superior's president and CEO, Scott Reppert, who said his company has 170 employees, serves 45% nursing homes and 55% hospitals and recently engineered a buyout of the company, with employees participating in the purchase. The company is growing at a 10% clip, he said, and has plans to build a new plant, in addition to the ones it now operates in Madison and Milwaukee. "We try to say current with standards," he said.
The committee broke protocol and permitted Lange to speak during its discussion of Superior, and she said she was pleased that supervisors were able to visit the plant, and "there's a reason why we want to be sure they run a safe operation." She said she had hoped to bring a speaker with "specialized information" about linen service to the meeting. Later she elaborated: "These are not red bugs you can see. I wanted them to hear from a national expert in cleanliness and contamination. Laymen can't see this. I'm glad they went; it seems things are better, which is a good thing. But I still have problems with the process. A supervisor should be able to speak on issues."
In other business, Petrick disclosed that patient counts at Ridgewood are up -- the facility had 235 admissions in the second quarter of the year, more than it had in all of 2004 -- and both private pay and Medicare patients are above budgeted levels. In addition, some $750,000 above what had been budgeted has been received from the state, putting the budget in good shape.
County Executive Bill McReynolds said he hears good things -- "People come up to me to say they were so happy with the facility. I think you're going to see even greater demand." He also said he will get the county to provide a closed circuit TV system to monitor the parking lot, for safety. "It won't cost a real lot of money," he said. "You used to have it, but it became obsolete."