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With an eye toward employee wellness, Wells Enterprises opens an onsite health clinic

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LE MARS, Iowa -- For some time, Wells Enterprises had wanted to establish a wellness clinic for employees.

With most of the office staff working from home at least part of the time, under a hybrid model, for the foreseeable future, company leaders identified free space for the clinic in its corporate headquarters.

"Because of COVID, we actually had the opportunity to have it here onsite within the corporate office, because a lot of our employees have transitioned to a more remote work mode, so that allows us to utilize this space," said Peggy Smith, a senior manager of enterprise health and benefits with Wells, maker of the Blue Bunny brand of ice cream. 

Last Thursday, Wells Enterprises opened the onsite clinic. The 3,612-square-foot, brightly lit, colorfully painted center boasts four exam rooms, a lab for routine bloodwork, a prescription dispensary, a hearing-test room and a tele-health room.

The center is staffed by a family nurse practitioner and a registered nurse. On the first day Thursday, Wells employees gradually entered for appointments.

Wells employs over 3,000 at its sites in Le Mars, which includes the corporate center, two ice cream plants and a large freezer.

At the clinic, employees can receive annual physical examinations, sick visits, lab work, immunizations, allergy shots, health coaching and education, referrals and prescriptions

Most exams and procedures conducted at the clinic are fully covered by Wells' PPO health insurance, though there is a $4 copay for drugs, regardless of the quantity. Employees who are uninsured or have a high-deductible plan can be seen for a "minimal copay," the company said.

Walk-ins are available for employees, though calling ahead is recommended. The clinic's hours are calibrated to accommodate workers on various shifts -- as early as 7 a.m. on Monday and Friday, as late as 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. 

"We would like to encourage (Wells employees) to come in for wellness exams. And we would do the same services that they might get at any other clinic," said Angela Anderson, a family nurse practitioner at the clinic. "So we would do the recommended labs and screenings, we can refer out for mammograms, and colonoscopies, and all of those recommended screenings and checkups." 

The clinic is run by Everside Health, an outside contractor that runs employer-sponsored health centers. Everside had previously partnered with Wells after the pandemic struck, helping set up rapid testing COVID education for employees at Wells plants across the country. Anderson is an employee of Everside. 

"They've been a good partner for us," said Lesley Bartholomew, Wells' director of communications. 

The clinic does not provide COVID-19 tests or vaccinations. Wells employees are screened for the virus elsewhere. The clinic also doesn't treat employees' on-the-job injuries -- the company contracts occupational nurses for those purposes at its sites. Currently, the clinic is solely for employees' personal health. 

"This could become somebody's primary medical home if they wanted it to be," Smith said. "So if we have employees that do not have a family doctor, this can be their medical home." 

Onsite clinics for large employers have become increasingly popular in recent years. According to the National Association of Worksite Health Centers, 33 percent of U.S. employers with 5,000 or more employees offer a general medical clinic, up from 24 percent five years earlier. 

"It's a good benefit to help attract and retain employees, because it isn't something that a lot of companies are able to offer," Smith said.  "It's becoming more of a trend. And a lot of it I think is due to COVID, because companies are recognizing the importance of having that healthy workforce." 

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, toured the clinic last week during a stop in the Plymouth County seat, the self-proclaimed "Ice Cream Capital of the World." 

"His staff though it was a great option, like 'I wish we had this at Congress! It would be so much more convenient for us!'" Bartholomew said. 


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