March 21, 2017

From the Hazleton Standard Speaker

A Vermont firm that specializes in controlling health care costs for some of the country’s larger employers secured zoning approval on Monday for operating a health center at the Franklin Corporate Center in Hazle Township.

Hazle Township Zoning Board voted unanimously on Monday to grant a special exception sought by Pope Architects and Retail Construction Inc. for operating a private medical clinic at 291 Airport Road.

It will exclusively treat employees at Cargill Meat Solutions in Humboldt Industrial Park.

Jim Dowling, a project manager with Marathon Health, told the zoning board that the goal is to “provide high-quality health care for the employees while also lowering costs” for the businesses Marathon contracts with.

In Hazle Township, the firm will operate a health center exclusively for 550 people who are on a medical insurance plan offered by Cargill, as well as 160 employee spouses, he said.

Marathon plans to operate from a storefront at the eastern end of the Franklin Corporate Center that will offer health-wellness programs — such as smoking cessation, weight loss, diabetes management and methods for lowering cholesterol — for eligible Cargill employees and their spouses, Dowling said.

Drugs will not be dispensed on site, but Dowling said the facility will serve as an “option” for employees who seek treatment for a common cold and other routine ailments.

The facility will be staffed with licensed practical nurse, a nurse practitioner and a medical assistant, he said. Hours of operation haven’t been finalized, but hinge on staffing — and will likely not exceed 20 hours per week, Dowling said.

All appointments will be scheduled, with minimum appointment times lasting between 30 minutes and one hour, he said. Walk-ins will not be accepted.

The health center will not accommodate overnight stays, does not do “house calls,” and does not engage in after-hours business, he said.

Staff will have the ability to write prescriptions and send them to the pharmacy of a patient’s choice, he said.

Marathon operates as many as eight such health centers throughout the country under the umbrella of Cargill Meat Solutions, Dowling said.

On a broader scale, the firm operates 140 health centers for various employers throughout the country, he said.

“Marathon is a national company with about 140 centers in 39 states,” Dowling said. “We do a number of different school districts, municipalities (and) private businesses.”

Marathon’s mission, he said, is providing convenient health care for employees and working to give the companies it works for a return on investment by reducing health care costs.

Marathon operates “workplace health centers” that offer prevention and care coordination services, perform annual exams, preventative screenings, condition management and health coaching programs, according to the company website.

A company overview states that Marathon staff assist patients in developing plans for managing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, depression, migraines, heart disease and arthritis.

Prescription management and laboratory testing, drug screenings and “tests and treatments” for work-related injuries are also among services offered by Marathon, its website states.

The Hazle Township facility could open by mid-June or early July, Dowling said.

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