KLN, Shearer's in Perham open on-site primary care clinic for employees

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Workers at KLN Family Brands and Shearer's Snacks no longer need to call in sick to get that cough checked out.

A new on-site primary care clinic at the KLN/Shearer's main office building in Perham is now offering free basic healthcare services to employees and their dependants. A physician's assistant, nurse, pharmacy technician and receptionist are now available at the clinic 40 hours a week, varying hours Monday through Friday.

The clinic is a unique partnership between the two snack and pet food companies, as well as Perham Health. It opened on Tuesday, Jan. 3, and a ribbon cutting ceremony was held the next morning to mark the occasion.

"This is an exciting day," said Charlie Nelson, president of KLN, just before the ribbon was cut. He said the clinic is a benefit for employees, helping to keep their healthcare costs down while providing convenience and high-quality care.

Shortly after the ceremony, Mark Schwerdtfeger, vice-president of sustainability, safety and wellness at Shearer's, said: "First and foremost, this is about people. We want people to get care. We don't want them to have to make an economic choice when it comes to their health. It's a positive thing. It's about preventive care."

Fred Sailer, who's in recruitment at KLN, said the accessibility of the free clinic makes it more likely that workers will seek care in the early stages of illness, rather than waiting until their symptoms are unmanageable. Encouraging proactive, rather than reactive, care, Sailer said, "is better for production and better for employees."

Proactive care can prevent more serious long-term health issues down the road, which often result in more sick days and higher overall healthcare costs.

Use of the new clinic is optional for employees. Those who want to continue visiting their regular doctor are still free to do so.

Shearer's has previously opened seven other on-site clinics at other factories within the company. The Perham clinic is the eighth and the newest, and it's also the most unique in that it's the only one Shearer's has opened in partnership with another company, that company being KLN.

Nancy Belka, human resources director for KLN, explained that the partnership was necessary in order to keep the clinic open a full 40 hours a week, which the companies wanted for their workers.

The clinic is also unique in that it involves a local hospital. Pat Stolle, vice-president of ancillary services at Perham Health, said when large companies open in-house clinics like this one, which is becoming more and more common, it's usually done with the help of large, national healthcare organizations.

But in this case, Stolle said KLN and Shearer's reached out to Perham Health, and Perham Health reached back. The planning process began last August.

"They wanted to provide this great benefit, and we wanted to provide that care for them," she said.

The clinic is staffed by Perham Health employees, who were newly hired specifically for the on-site clinic work. They utilize Perham Health's electronic medical records system, so they have access to the same patient information that any other Perham Health providers would have, and that information is recorded and maintained within the same system. That's especially helpful if a patient seen at the on-site clinic gets referred to another provider or specialist at Perham Health.

Perham Health Pharmacy is also working with the new clinic. A telepharmacy is available at the KLN site so patients can consult with a Perham Health pharmacist about their prescriptions, via a Skype-like live videochat system. Common prescriptions are available right on site at the new clinic, while others can be delivered for pickup there later that same day. Patients can also choose to pick up their prescriptions at Perham Health Pharmacy.

Stolle described the clinic's opening day Tuesday as "very successful," with nine patients seen.