For The Madera Tribune
Agriland Farming employee, Alfredo de la Paz, discusses his health with Dr. KennethBernstein at the company’s new Training and Wellness Center.
Agriland Farming Company, Inc. recently opened a Training and Wellness Center for it’s employees on the company’s Chowchilla home.
The center includes a large instructional room, as well as a clinic where the medical group Camarena Health provides care to Agriland’s employees and their families.
The company’s CEO, Jim Maxwell, wanted a facility that could provide opportunities for improvement in employees’ health, education, and general well-being, and is counting on their feedback to guide the direction of the facility’s use and activities.
In order to get the word out about the new clinic, Agriland reached out to its employees in several informational meetings, explaining the nature of the health care provided by Camarena and health week, which ran from July 10-14.
Aware that many of their employees don’t have a fondness for doctor’s visits, Agriland provided incentive to all who chose to come in for a health screening. Each employee received a $50 gift certificate, the $15 copay was covered by Agriland, and their wages were paid for the time needed to complete the screening.
The exam included an eye exam, an accurate non-fasting blood screening for diabetes and pre-diabetes, a blood pressure check, a body mass index calculation, and a private meeting with the doctor to discuss any issues they’ve been having. More than 150 employees signed up to participate in the health week screenings.
When discussing the opening of the on-site clinic and Health Week, Maxwell said, “We are excited by the opportunity this gives us for early identification of certain medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure and being able to efficiently treat these before they result in permanent damage to the health of our employees. This effort is raising our awareness and causing us to adjust the kinds of snacks and drinks we offer and move toward choices with better nutritional value.”
Dr. Kenneth Bernstein was the physician throughout Health Week and he found it to be a very constructive event. He encountered quite a few patients who were somewhat aware they had a health problem, but had been ignoring it by remaining in some stage of denial.
He felt that the screenings held during health week reinforced proper health care and could be tremendously beneficial if the patients continue to follow up.
Bernstein encountered numerous employees who were surprised and greatly appreciative that an employer was willing to go the extra mile for them and be an advocate for their health.
“This is a very nice facility,” he said. “The company clearly cares about it’s employees.”
Camarena Health’s CEO, Paulo Soares, is not aware of another company in the Madera/Chowchilla area that has an on-site clinic, but he hopes to see more of them in the future. He feels that Agriland’s operation is very unique and they are working together to customize it to fit the needs of the employees and their families.
“Two of the most common barriers to individuals receiving primary health care services is affordability and access,” Soares said. “By having services on the worksite, it helps to remove the barrier of transportation to a medical facility. Secondly, Agriland’s commitment to it’s employees and their wellness allows its staff to access primary care services at little or no out of pocket cost.”
The employees share many of these opinions.
When asked what having an on-site clinic meant to them, several employees shared their thoughts. Alfredo de la Paz, who works in Agriland’s nursery, said, “For me, it means that my employer has a real, human interest in us. I have worked in agriculture for many years, and I have not seen this anywhere else. I think it is a great advantage to be working here at this company.”
Another nursery worker, Jaime Garcia Ochoa, said, “It is a great advantage, not only for me, but for all of the workers that take advantage of these opportunities that the company offers. A lot of times we don’t go to the doctor, not because we are scared of what we may have, but because we don’t want to lose our work hours. However, with this opportunity, we can go to the doctor and take care of our health.”
Enrique Castillo, one of Agriland’s farming foremen, said, “I am very grateful to the employer, because in my 40 years of working in agriculture, no other employer has been concerned in this way for it’s workers or for their health.”
Another employee advantage to come out of Agriland’s Training and Wellness Center is instruction in the English language. Many of Agriland’s associates who care for the farms do not speak much English, so the company hired an English teacher to give classes to any interested employees and their family members.
Jeannette Arevalo, who teaches for Madera Unified School District and has been a part of several literacy programs, now leads two different classes twice a week at the Training and Wellness Center.
She said the students are excited and grateful to Agriland for the opportunity to learn a valuable skill. “They work really hard, are happy to have the opportunity, and are really learning a lot.”
There is already talk among the employees to request that the nutirition classes, which were given during health week, be continued and include family members.
“We are very encouraged by the interest we’re seeing in evening classes directed at improving the diet and health of all the family members of our employees,” Maxwell said. “This Training and Wellness Center was designed to serve the best interests of our employees and their families. We are confident that as we move forward, our employees will suggest creative uses that will bring them the most significant benefits.”