More than 120 workers laid off by a vendor of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital are getting the chance to continue working at the Valencia-based health care facility.

When the hospital decided to end its contract with Integrated Support Solutions Inc., or ISSI, for food, housekeeping and maintenance services, the Van Nuys-based company notified 128 workers at the site last month that they would be laid off in May. However, through requirements set by the hospital in its new vendor contract, incoming company Sodexo Inc. will be hiring all the hourly workers from the former contract – or at least the ones that pass background checks and drug screens. The hiring process will be completed this month.

"We've honored their years of service with their current employer," said Roseanne Diamond-De La Mata, sales director at Sodexo's San Diego office. The company is based in Gaithersburg, Md. "We're honoring everyone's rate of pay also, and most importantly, they will have health care benefits on day one, too."

Contract May 14

Sodexo, which begins its contract with Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital on May 14, has timed the switch so as to avoid inconveniences for the employees. Those becoming employed by Sodexo will not experience any disturbances in their work or pay schedules.

Hospital officials say keeping the workers on staff is going to benefit both the employees and the hospital.

"It’s great that we were able to absorb all of those employees that normally would have been laid off," said Jonathan Miller, the hospital's vice president of ancillary and support services, adding that the practice is not the norm in vendor contract changes. "They know our physicians, our staff, they know some of our patients. ... We're a stand-alone community hospital, so we like to think of ourselves sort of as a family."

Despite the plan to switch employees from one company to the other, ISSI is still preparing its soon-to-be laid-off employees for possible unemployment.

"We have representatives from the (Employment Development Department), from the Santa Clarita WorkSource Center and from other local community organizations that assist with training and job placement coming out to meet with the staff within the next couple of weeks to (inform them of) their rights to unemployment and different services," said Tamara Ehrlich, manager of people services for ISSI.

The company has also already made positions available in its other divisions to some employees affected by the contract change. Those employees were not included in the count of 128 laid-off workers, and Ehrlich said she could not disclose how many additional workers were included in the contract.

Four bidders

The vendor change came after nearly 12 years of service with ISSI, a medium-sized company that provides similar services for other hospitals of comparable size to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, primarily in California. Sodexo, a much larger company, was one of four contract bidders.

"Eleven years is probably longer than most contracts of this type, so it was time for us to look around and see what other vendors were out there and what they were offering," Miller said. "They (at Sodexo) just have the corporate infrastructure to offer very good service levels. They have a lot of accounts, and they're a worldwide company. They do this at many, many hospitals, so they have best practices."

Sodexo already has plans about some of the changes it will make once it starts working with the hospital. Those include plans to visually improve the employee and guest cafeteria, improve traffic flow, change the food offerings and add a coffee cart bistro. It also plans to implement its branded ordering concept called Expressly For You.

"For the patients, we're going to move to a same-day menu so that we will have a hostess actually take the order," Diamond-De La Mata said, adding that the order would be taken at patients’ bedsides a couple of hours before meal time. "It's kind of like a restaurant style. … This really helps to drive patient satisfaction, as well as nursing satisfaction, in the hospitals.”