A pork processing plant in Sioux City is closing this week — a week-and-a-half earlier than originally announced. More than 1,400 people who work at the John Morrell Plant were told in January that the plant would shut down on April 20th.
A spokesperson for Smithfield Foods, which owns the plant, says workers will be paid through the 20th. John Morrell is one of Sioux City’s largest employers and the closure will have a wide ranging impact other businesses, including health care services.
Siouxland Community Health Center C.E.O. Michelle Stephan says they serve over 1,000 patients that utilize insurance provided through John Morrell. She says those unemployed individuals can remain patients and qualify for a sliding fee scale. “Instead of having insurance reimburse for their services, they would pay a portion of their $20 copay if they qualify for the lowest slide,” Stephan said. “So, our reimbursement for those individuals has greatly decreased.”
Stephan believes the change could cost the center $400,000 a year. She’s hoping to cover the shortfall through grants or other federal dollars. “The federal government has been very forgiving for community health centers and have helped us a great deal along the way to supplement that uninsured rate and it’s based on the number of patients we provide services too,” Stephan said. “From 2008 to 2009, we saw over 2,000 more patients…around 47-percent of those patients are uninsured.”
Smithfield officials cited the economy and the age of the 52-year-old plant when they announced the decision to close the John Morrell facility.
By Josie Cooper, KSCJ, Sioux City