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Washington Co. Board weighing the future of the Samaritan Home

West Bend, WI – Senior citizens from the Samaritan Home packed the Washington County Board room as supervisors weighed the future of the Samaritan Health Center at its April 12, 2023, meeting. Residents were wheeled into the board room as other supporters held “Save Our Samaritan’ signs.
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There were also two overflow rooms to handle more people who supported the Samaritan.

At issue is whether the county should be in the senior care business; should it continue to invest in senior care even though, it is said to be a service “not mandated by the state.” As of the November 29, 2022 the Ad Hoc Committee agenda read, “Washington County agenda to discuss “renovation, demolition, closure” of Samaritan Home.

The initial meeting began with a statement by Supervisor Linda Gurath who chaired the Ad Hoc Committee and called out County Board Chairman Jeff Schleif.

“On March 1, I sat in on a meeting of the Samaritan Ad Hoc Committee. This committee continues to dig into all the details surrounding the possibilities moving forward. There have been many very good discussions, which has been good. What was not good, in my opinion is the dissemination of information, which is not completely accurate. This has served to make me untrustworthy of some of the findings. So that’s the quote from the report to publicly falsely accuse the Ad Hoc Committee like this, in my opinion, is extremely low and unprofessional. Usually, when a chair sets up an Ad Hoc Committee, that chair is supportive of the committee. Our chair has been anything but supportive as evidenced in his monthly report. If he had a legitimate concern, he should have addressed it privately. Chairman Schleif, please remove that paragraph from the record,” said Supervisor Gurath.

Schleif responded by saying he would remove the paragraph. “But I will remind you that we had many conversations, and your committee was slanted right from the start. So, I stand by my feeling, and we’ll move on.”

Then Supervisor Lois Gundrum chimed in. “There have been many times in the past and supervisors in public comment have said words they regret. But by the end of the meeting, most of the supervisors in fact, all of them have reached out to one another and expressed their regret for saying things in the heat of the moment. We do that because we respect one another. But this is so different from that, Mr. Chairman, this was thought about, put in writing, and made part of a public record to say that, in your opinion, there was an intentional act to mislead the public with inaccurate information is a disrespect to the Ad Hoc Committee, the members of the staff and the professionals who worked on this. I’m thanking you that you’re going to remove that paragraph from your report and I think that is the very least you can do but an apology is certainly needed,” said Gundrum.

With that, Schleif apologized. “In that case, I apologize. Perhaps I was out of line. But my feelings are still my feelings.”

Crowd in one of two overflow rooms

There was about an hours-worth of presentation on studies, data, money, federal funding … or the lack thereof, facility capacity, beds, staffing and more on staffing.

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According to the agenda, “The Board needs to determine whether county government is better suited to manage this care or is the private sector better equipped. If the Board concludes county government run long term care is best, then either remodeling or rebuilding must be the conclusion. If the Board concludes the private sector is more appropriate, then a sale of Samaritan is the option to be pursued.”

The county executive made a final statement, “The county is capable of staying in the business but the model has to change.”

The board moved into closed session around 9 p.m.

This is a working story and more information will be posted when details become available.

Click HERE to contact your County Supervisor.

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