Members of the local chapter of the International Union of Operating Engineers have a new option for their health care. On Thursday, the union unveiled a health care center specifically for its members.
The Union Health and Wellness Center, at 6601 Winchester Ave., is open to the Kansas City’s chapter 4,500 members as well as their dependents and about 450 retirees. The union represents a variety of workers from heavy equipment operators to mechanics to nurses.
The Kansas City chapter encompasses 56 counties in Missouri and all of Kansas.
North Kansas City-based Cerner Corp., a health care information technology company, will run the center.
Union members can see a primary care physician for physicals, immunizations, tests and other medical needs. Cerner said it’s the first health care center for a building trades union in the Kansas City area. Cerner didn’t disclose the financial details of its contract.
The 5,500-square-foot center has three rooms ready for consultations and exams. Stacie Totta, Cerner’s director of population health services, said staff members at the facility will learn what common ailments are among operating engineers. Once they have that information, they can adjust the health center to meet more specific needs.
The clinic is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.
Totta said union members can expect little to no wait time. The Cerner model for on-site health centers revolves around the patients, and the focus is on prevention.
Population health has been a focus for Cerner, which involves setting up personalized health care centers for companies. Cerner operates 40 of these centers across the country and 10 in the Kansas City area.
Mike Heckman, vice president of population health services, said the union health and wellness center aligns with the company’s vision “to contribute to systemic change in health care and contribute to the health of communities.”
The center will be free for eligible users. Totta said there are plans to add a pharmacy to the clinic.
James Callahan, the general president of the national organization, spoke at the opening. He said he sees potential in the health center.
“This thing is going to grow because of the fact that it’s their organization, their union and their wages that pay into it,” he said.
The local chapters do have autonomy, but Callahan said they share best practices.
“I see this being the model that will be duplicated all around the country,” Callahan said.
Former health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius was at the opening of the clinic Thursday and said she has seen centers like it. The former Kansas governor said companies have found that on-site centers save money in the long run. Another benefit is healthier employees.
“If it’s not convenient and it’s not easy, people will wait until there’s a crisis and then they’ll go to the doctor,” Sebelius said. “The easy choice should be the healthy choice, and that’s what this will be. It will make it far easier for people to actually do preventive care and take care of their own health.”
But convenience isn’t the only factor. Callahan said operating engineers are the hardest people to get to the doctor.
“We are all supposed to be macho and not go to the doctor until we have to,” he said. “When there’s an incentive there to get them, that’s how you can check these things out.”