Working as a waiter at Il Bagatto, Hector Calle can't begin to afford health care insurance.
But Hector and legions of other restaurant workers in the East Village are finding not just medical help, but a good dose of compassion. He is a doctor, and his name is David Ores. But to his patients, he's just Dr. Dave.
"They have a job, they earn money," he said. "But they can't pay $1,000 a month...for health insurance."
But Dr. Dave's dedicated work and belief that everyone deserves basic health care is now taking a giant leap forward, enlisting restaurants into what he calls the restaurant worker's health care cooperative. Ten have already joined.
Here's how it works. The restaurants pay $1 for every seat in their restaurant. That money goes into a special fund, which then goes to pay for the health care.
"Health care should be like water or food or housing," Dr. Dave said. "A basic human right, not a luxury.
For Beatrice Tosti, Il Bagatto's owner, the cooperative is also a way for her to be able to help her workers.
"We are a family," she said. "And we struggle through this together. And I couldn't walk away from these people that have a family and pride in what they do."
And soon, the cooperative opens new offices in the Lower East Side People's Mutual Housing Association, offering affordable rent.
"He will have room to bring in another doctor or two to work with him, which means he can see more people," the association's executive director Mary Spink said.
With the potential to reach thousands desperately needing health care, Dr. Dave is lowering the barrier to that care.
"To fix things earlier, to intervene early is 100 times less expensive than you wait for it to become a complicated case of pneumonia," Dr. Dave said.
STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Tim Fleischer
WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King