In what is believed to be the first clinic of its kind in Sonoma County, natural frozen-food maker Amy's Kitchen has opened a health care facility across the street from its Santa Rosa plant to treat workers and their families.
The clinic, which is funded by the company, is designed to expand workers' access to medical care while saving money for Amy's Kitchen by improving the health of its employees.
Amy's Family Health Center is available to any worker with company health coverage, as well as their immediate families. For a $5 co-pay, patients can receive physical exams and immunizations, cold and flu treatments and management of such chronic conditions as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure.
It was created to supplement, not replace, the company's two health insurance options, Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente, which are offered to employees who work more than 24 hours each week. And dependents may use the center even if they aren't covered under the worker's health insurance plan.
The center's aim is to improve health by making it more convenient and affordable to visit a doctor. The physician and the center's licensed vocational nurse speak Spanish as well as English.
"What we're doing is we're lowering some of the barriers," said Dr. Bruce Heller, the center's physician.
Already, Heller said, many of his mostly Latino patients say they haven't seen a doctor in years. The center will try to change such behavior and encourage patients not to put off seeking medical help until a health problem has grown severe.
"Our goal is to get them while they're feeling well," he said.
Petaluma-based Amy's Kitchen has about 1,800 employees in the United States and England, including 765 in Santa Rosa.
The company will hold a ceremony today to celebrate the opening of the new health center just off Northpoint Parkway. Last month it opened a similar clinic at its plant in Medford, Ore.
In an interview last spring, owners Andy and Rachel Berliner said the centers are intended to help workers live more healthy lives.
In the long run, Andy Berliner said, the center "should be a financial benefit to us because you're making your workforce healthier. You're having a lot less serious medical problems."
Officials at the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, the county Economic Development Board and the Sonoma County Medical Association were unaware of a similar clinic run for a private employer here.
"Amy's is often ahead of the curve in so many ways," said Ben Stone, director of the county Economic Development Board.
The company doctor has long been a part of American medicine. Kaiser Permanente traces its roots back to company-owned hospitals set up to treat workers and their families at the World War II-era shipyards and steel mills of the Kaiser Steel corporation.
Amy's clinic is run by QuadMed of Sussex, Wis., a provider of onsite clinics to various Fortune 1000 companies. Heller is an employee of QuadMed. Amy's Kitchen did not disclose the cost of operating the centers.