May 24, 2021 - News

Tyson Foods pilots health care centers for plant workers

Illustration of a caduceus with cooked chicken wings instead of regular wings.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Tyson Foods has started opening health centers for its employees through a partnership with Marathon Health.

  • The centers are onsite or near Tyson plants.

Why it matters: Many Tyson employees work at plants in rural areas with less access to health care. The health centers provide preventative and primary health care for employees and their families (who are on Tyson's health insurance plan).

What's happening: A few health centers, including one in Green Forest in Carroll County, have recently opened. A total of seven pilot centers are set to open by the end of the summer.

The big picture: Tyson hired its first chief medical officer, Claudia Coplein, late last year. The doctor has been on staff for more than four months helping with pandemic-related services and overseeing the rollout of the new clinics.

  • The company is prioritizing opening health centers in areas where Tyson can see that employees aren't using their health insurance, with the goal of making care more accessible, Coplein tells Axios.
"When you elevate the health of the people who live in a community, you elevate the health of the community and, to me, that's being a good corporate citizen."
ā€” Claudia Coplein

Context: Tyson has had nurses on staff for decades for occupational health, such as work-related injuries, and was already looking at expanding its health services before the pandemic.

  • Meat plants in particular faced criticism in the past year as the virus broke out among plant workers, drawing protests from workers' rights activists. The federal government deemed plant workers essential, meaning the plants couldn't shut down out of precaution.
  • "Certainly, the pandemic has brought to light the need for total caring of team members," Coplein says.

Tyson has offered free COVID-19 screening, testing and vaccinations to employees. The company reported more than 2,800 cases at its Arkansas workplaces in the past year.

Of note: The health centers will also offer mental health counseling.

What's next: Tyson will evaluate how the next several months go before deciding whether to add more centers, including at its Springdale plants, Coplein said.


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