An Apple a Day – New health care initiative launches for hospitality workers



There are few things as terrifying as going to the doctor when you work in the hospitality industry. The office visit and maybe lab fees, the possible prescription and the unpaid time off of work all have the ability to put you in debt. Coming down with the flu could end up costing you $1,000. If you sustain a serious non-work injury, like maybe you tripped on an uneven sidewalk and broke your ankle, you will likely lose your job on top of incurring thousands of dollars of medical expenses.

The avoidance of medical care, and cost, is real. I remember vividly the advice of coworkers when I worked in restaurants — a line cook who swore by pouring vanilla extract on a burn, a server who treated sinus infections by eating cloves of raw garlic and washing them down with gallons of zinc and vitamin C, and, of course, the management-approved quick bandaging of a deep cut on your hand and covering it with a rubber glove to get through the dinner rush and try to finish your shift. Dental care… forget it. I never had a cavity in my life until I aged out of my mother’s insurance, didn’t have access to insurance through my restaurant, and had to stop getting regular dental cleanings. Also, don’t break your glasses, and don’t get an eye infection from wearing the same disposable contact lenses for six months at a time.

With these realities in mind, there is a new resource for hospitality workers in New Orleans. Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation (NOTMC) have partnered with 504HealthNet to create the Healthy Hospitality Initiative.

After more than a year of planning, the new initiative aims to provide our local hospitality workers with access to high-quality, affordable healthcare through a new website, clinics with convenient appointment times and locations, and a team of professionals that will work directly with the hospitality community.

“The City of New Orleans, under my leadership, will always be committed to better outcomes for the people who make our city what she truly is by giving everything that they have for our industry, tourists, and all of us who call New Orleans home,” said Mayor Cantrell in a press release. “We will not stand down. Through partnerships like this, we will continue to stand tall and ensure all of our people have affordable and accessible healthcare.”

The Healthy Hospitality Initiative is three-pronged. It incorporates a media and communications campaign to increase awareness of the program to hospitality workers, it employs community health navigators to provide one-on-one support, and it also focuses on system strengthening through operational changes, cultural sensitivity training and quality improvement initiatives in the regional healthcare system. There are 58 clinic sites operated by 17 health care organizations and one hospital system with five sites that are a part of the initiative.

Mark Romig, president and CEO of NOTMC, told me last year how important access to good healthcare is for hospitality workers, and that he was looking forward to launching a new resource for the community. Now, the initiative is a reality.

“We are very excited to announce the Healthy Hospitality initiative for the great men and women in the hospitality industry that provide our visitors and locals with an authentic New Orleans experience,” said Romig in a press release. “Following a proactive year of convening, working alongside partners and a year’s work of testing with hospitality workers, we are proud to stand here today.”

The Healthy Hospitality Initiative has a useful website that addresses common questions and concerns. It is important to note that through the initiative, workers can receive medical care if they are uninsured and it uses a sliding scale based on their income for payment. Payment plans are also available. Additionally, all of the clinics in the initiative are open to documented or undocumented immigrants, they have language lines or in-person translation services available, and the clinics do not allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) onto the premises.


Categories: Tourism Biz