In an effort to keep its employees healthy and better protected from COVID-19, Tyson Foods will open medical clinics at several of its U.S. meat plants. While the company says that the plan for the clinics was conceived prior to the pandemic, the outbreak just accelerated the idea.
“Some of our frontline team members aren’t using their health plan benefits, and others don’t seek care until there’s a crisis,” Johanna Söderström, Tyson’s chief human resources officer, said in a company statement. “We want to change that by providing access to care that can help detect health conditions early and promote healthy habits.”
At last count, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) reports that 17,700 meatpacking workers in the U.S. have been infected or exposed to the novel coronavirus, and that the disease is responsible for 115 deaths among workers.
The company will initially set up seven clinics near plants in Storm Lake, Iowa and Holcomb, Kansas, in the early part of 2021 as part of a pilot program. Additional locations will be announced at a later date. The new clinics will be run by Marathon Health, and there will be no charge to employees and their families for most services.
Tyson has also partnered with Matrix Medical for a more comprehensive COVID-19 monitoring model, which will be implemented at each of its plants and facilities. “By using data science to test a statistically sound sample of team members, we have a better chance of staying ahead of any potential virus spread and protecting our teams and communities,” says Donnie King, group president and chief administrative officer of Tyson Foods. “We’ve been piloting this program at several of our facilities and have seen great success. Our team members tell us they feel especially supported by this scientifically sound combination of testing and monitoring.”
Tyson’s plan for clinics also includes the addition of a new chief medical officer at the company and the expansion of its occupational health staff, with approximately 200 nurses and administrative support personnel supplementing the 400-plus people who are currently part of the company’s health services team.
According to a company spokesperson, these new nurses will be charged with conducting on-site testing and assist with case management and coordinating treatment for team members who contract the virus.
“UFCW is urging all companies in the industry to follow Tyson’s lead and take immediate action to expand COVID-19 monitoring as we work to flatten the curve,” says Marc Perrone, UFCW’s president. “Together, we will continue to look for new and better ways to protect the health and safety of the brave frontline workers who are so important to the nation’s food production system.”