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Cummins plans wellness center for employees

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Indiana-based Cummins Inc. is planning a company-first wellness center for its employees and their families in Columbus on the Jackson Street block that now contains the Volunteers in Medicine clinic.

The facility, which will be more than a year away in opening, would be the first of its kind for the company. Should the concept prove successful, Cummins will consider similar arrangements in other areas with Cummins plants, said Dr. Dexter Shurney, chief medical officer for Cummins.

Shurney said the clinic is growing out of the company's efforts to improve employees' long-term health, and to make them aware of the cost and quality of their health care. The facility would be used to encourage employees and their families to take advantage of a comprehensive approach to their personal health, he told The Republic.

"We envision this offering a fairly comprehensive spectrum of services," Shurney said. "We would likely be able to treat that cold and sniffle, but also check blood pressure for individuals who have a chronic illness."

The clinic would likely provide services such as nutrition and exercise counseling, and health assessments.

Services would be available to company employees and their families as part of their insurance benefits but would have an associated cost and will not be free, Shurney said.

Some services, such as massage, would be outside of the company's normal benefits package, Shurney said. How those services will be funded still is being determined, he said.

The company decided to test the concept in Columbus because of the large number of employees locally and the tight relationship between the engine maker and Columbus Regional Hospital, Shurney said.

The site is just north of the Cummins headquarters.

The company has bought or is in the process of buying most of the property on the block between Eighth and 11th Streets and Jackson and Lindsey streets.

In July, the company acquired the building at the corner of Jackson and Eighth streets and the building at Brown and Eighth streets, according to county property records.

At Cummins' request, the city in October approved a replatting to combine the properties to the north and west of the Volunteers in Medicine clinic into one parcel, although that property still is owned by Jackson Place LLC, according to city and county records. Cummins is in the process of installing a sidewalk on the northern edge of the property across from the city's roundabout.

The only remaining properties on the block are the Volunteers in Medicine clinic and the Jackson Place apartments themselves. Last month, the city sold the Volunteers in Medicine clinic building and property to the Columbus Regional Health Foundation. Shurney said Cummins is in negotiations to purchase the clinic property.

"We are still in the design phase," he said. "We thought it was best to acquire as much of that property as we could, if we wanted to expand, so we wouldn't be limited, constricted or constrained in space."

Volunteers in Medicine and hospital officials said they want to make sure that before the clinic is sold that it is set up in a new location with the ability to meet its clients' future health care needs.

Shurney said Cummins shares an interest in the clinic's mission.

"We see that as part of our corporate responsibility," Shurney said. "We have a very good relationship with Volunteers in Medicine now, and we also have a very good relationship with Columbus Regional Hospital. We want that to continue."

Cummins likely will contract with a doctor's group to operate the wellness center when it opens, Shurney said.

The timeline still is in development, but the company is hoping for a 2015 opening, said Melina Kennedy, Cummins director of executive communication.

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