'It's a big step for us'

Northwell opens health clinic, offers specialty services to Belmont park workers

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Northwell Health recently announced the opening of a health clinic for Belmont Park workers.
“The clinic will provide a continuum of care and offer wellness programs for the thousands of backstretch workers at Belmont Park,” Northwell Health said in a statement on Oct. 28, referring to workers who work in stables and with horses at the racetrack. “The free program is part of Northwell’s commitment to providing equitable care to all New Yorkers,” the statement added.
The 1,000-square-foot health clinic was run by another operator until October 2020. Northwell will offer services in collaboration with the New York Racing Association, the organization that operates the track, and the Backstretch Employee Service Team of New York, or BEST, the nonprofit that works to better the health and social welfare needs of several thousand backstretch workers.
“BEST is thrilled to collaborate again with Northwell to provide the hardworking backstretch workers of Belmont and Aqueduct with on-going, first-class primary and preventative care,” said the organization’s executive director, Paul Ruchames.
Many backstretch workers are Hispanic migrants who live in dorms at the park, Northwell said in the statement, adding that issues such as language barriers have created health care complications for workers in the past.

“While language barriers and cultural biases are often reasons why some immigrants don’t seek care, Northwell has gotten out of the starting gate quickly,” the statement said, adding that Northwell offered flu vaccinations during the last week of October for 100 backstretch workers.
“Clinics like this one are important, because they allow quick access to care, before health issues become health care emergencies,” said Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health. “This community dedicated to the sport of thoroughbred racing deserves a commitment to wellness — and Northwell Health is happy to provide it. That’s our passion.”
One backstretch worker at Belmont, Francisco Barrera, a 47-year-old man Peru, has sustained injuries while working with horses. “We are mostly immigrants,” Barrera, who is supportive of the services the clinic provides, said. “It is hard for us to get medical attention outside the track It’s a big step for us.”
Clinic hours are being offered to workers three days a week, with the opportunity for specialized services as needed. The clinic features two exam rooms as well as lab services for testing.
“This important partnership will increase access to high-quality health care for the backstretch community at Belmont Park,” said New York Racing Association CEO David O’Rourke.
Northwell Health estimates that Belmont Park workers will make over 2,000 visits to the clinic next year.

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