Clinic offers healthcare for Tyson employees, families

Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Cori Steele, a physician’s assistant, treats a patient Friday at the new Bright Blue Health Center at the Tyson Foods plant in Green Forest. Steele is one of four staff members at the clinic, which officially opened May 12. The clinic, operated by Marathon Health, is one of seven intended to give Tyson employees and their families access to free or reduced cost basic health care as part of the company’s plan to provide greater benefits to its employees. The Green Forest clinic will serve employees at all three Tyson plants in Carroll County.
Robert Cox / Carroll County News

Employees at the Tyson Foods plants in Berryville and Green Forest — and their families — now have access to free or reduced-cost basic healthcare.

As part of Tyson’s efforts to “boost the overall health and wellness of its workforce,” the company has established a “Bright Blue” health center at the Green Forest facility, one of seven the company has established near company production facilities in seven states.

In a news release issued about the plan, Tyson Foods’ chief medical officer, Dr. Claudia Coplein, said there was a simple reason behind the initiative.

“We’re piloting these health centers to promote a culture of health and wellness in our company that results in a healthier workforce,” Coplein said. “Some of our frontline team members aren’t using their health plan benefits, and others don’t seek care until there’s a crisis. We want to change that by providing access to care that can help detect health conditions early and promote healthy habits.”

The Green Forest facility, which is operated by Marathon Health, officially opened on May 12 and hosted an open house Friday. Along with the other six clinics, the Green Forest location will provide primary and preventive care, including health screenings, lifestyle coaching and health education, as well as behavioral health counseling.

Tyson spokesman Derek Burleson said Friday the idea of establishing clinics for employees had been in the works for some time.

“What we found is that a lot of employees, while they have health insurance — and it’s actually required by Tyson Foods — they just weren’t accessing their health care,” Burleson said. “They weren’t accessing the benefits that were available to them. So we started the discussion of, ‘How can we provide easier access and try and solve that problem?’ As we’ve talked to others about this, they asked, ‘Is this another response to the [COVID-19] pandemic?’ It’s not. Planning for these pilot clinics actually began before the pandemic, in late 2019.”

The first health center opened April 28 in Dyersburg, Tenn., near the company’s facility in Newbern. According to Burleson, the clinics will also collaborate with plant community health providers, including primary care physicians and specialists, to ensure appropriate care is delivered.

The multimillion dollar clinic program represents the expansion of the company’s “We Care” workplace safety program to include overall team member health and wellness and is an addition to its existing health services staff, which includes on-site occupational health nurses at most plant locations.

“We have a nurse manager with a nursing staff on all three shifts at all three plants,” said Mike Armstrong, a human resources manager at the Green Forest plant. “They do a lot of health counseling, which is going to supplement what they’re planning to do here at this facility. The nurses at the plants, they do a lot of things with team members that aren’t work-related. They give a lot of direction. People kind of come to them about something happening with their kid or whatever. They have that kind of relationship with our team members. I think the two are going to supplement things very nicely.”

The Green Forest clinic is currently staffed by four people, including a physician’s assistant, a dietician, a medical assistant and a patient support specialist. According to physician’s assistant Cori Steele, the staff is expected to grow in coming months.

“I’m the primary medical provider,” said Steele. “We don’t have an onsite MD at present. We are looking to fill that position and we have people we collaborate with within Marathon Health. We’re also looking for a behavioral health counselor. Both of those positions we’re actively trying to fill. They already have offices and everything.”

Armstrong said staff at the Carroll County plants are in the process of spreading the word to their approximately 2,700 employees, whose spouses and dependents age 2 and older who are covered by the Tyson insurance plan will be eligible for treatment.

“We’ve been putting this information out, and been out there helping them sign up,” Armstrong said. “That’s a lot of what our push has been, explaining to them what a benefit this is. This is going to be very good. We were looking at this before COVID came around — COVID probably helped expedite it — but this was something we were really looking at doing as a benefit to our team members.”

All told, the seven clinics will serve more than 38,000 Tyson employees and their families. Marathon Health operates health centers for employer organizations across nearly 40 states in several industries. In a statement, Marathon CEO Jeff Wells said his company is excited to partner with Tyson.

“Partnering with Tyson to improve the health and well-being of their employees and families is an honor for Marathon Health,” Wells said. “We offer care that often looks beyond the symptoms and helps people take new actions around their own health. We are excited to see the profound changes in the lives of the people we will serve at the Tyson health centers.”

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