• February 20, 2020

Georgina Shanley honored with MLK Day award - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Georgina Shanley honored with MLK Day award

She started after-school program; now she is focused on health care as a right

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Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2020 11:04 am | Updated: 11:16 am, Wed Jan 22, 2020.

OCEAN CITY – Local human rights activist Georgina Shanley was one of six recipients of this year’s MLK Service Awards, presented to community volunteers who do their best to emulate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for service. 

Shanley was recognized for starting a program commemorating Martin Luther King Day at the Ocean City Primary School. 

The program expanded into Community Action Now, a program of volunteers that provided after-school activities for local students for 17 years. 

“It was all volunteer. It was five days a week in the beginning. We had puppeteers, we had artists, we had people who could help with the homework at all levels,” Shanley said. “We would also bring the kids to the Cape May County Zoo and take them on outings and for a few programs at Stockton University…. We had very good volunteers.”

She said mostly African-American students participated in the program, but more recently it shifted to Latinos and low-income white children. 

 “As housing became unavailable to the lower-income families, there was a decrease in the number of students coming,” Shanley said.

When Hurricane Sandy struck the resort in 2012, it damaged the Eighth Street youth center where the program was held, spelling the end of Community Action Now, she said.

Shanley said she still hears from former students who participated in the program and how it changed their lives.

“I’m in touch with a lot of the young people who have been through the program. Many of them now have children of their own,” Shanley said.

As president of the South Jersey Amnesty International chapter, Shanley is working on a resolution supporting health care as a human right. 

She said King first discussed the inequality in healthcare.

Quoted by the Associated Press on March 26, 1966, King opined on health care inequality: “We’re concerned about the constant use of federal funds to support this most notorious expression of segregation. Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhumane because it often results in physical death.” 

“Just by being a human being living in this county you can’t help but see what’s happening to ourselves and to our neighbors with the lack of access to healthcare,” Shanley said.

Health care premiums kept increasing every year she got older, Shanley said. Before using Medicare, she paid $1,200 per month with a deductible and copayment. But even that had its limitations.

“I couldn’t even choose which doctor I could go to. It was all decided by the insurance company,” Shanley said. 

According to a 2018 study from the Harvard School of Medicine, 45,000 people die every year due to a lack of health insurance and lack necessary medical care for treatable conditions. 

“Does that make a difference to a politician or somebody who’s representing us? I don’t think so,” Shanley said.

Shanley, who was born in Ireland, said lack of access to health care isn’t an issue over there as it is in the United States. 

She noted Ireland has a national health care program, which “isn’t a great program,” but there’s a second tier program with private insurance.

“Physicians will always treat the paying guests better and move them along faster if they’re paying,” she said, adding that “nobody really goes bankrupt and very few people die from a lack of access.”

She’s skeptical of criticism that single-payer health programs are branded “socialized medicine.” 

“I think that’s just a huge barrier and it’s a false narrative that’s being put up by insurance companies who are funding politicians and pharmaceutical companies and for-profit hospitals funding politicians so that laws are made and there’s no progress with health care being a human right,” Shanley said. “The CEOs of these huge companies are making millions of dollars a year on the backs of the sick. Imagine making a profit on the mother who has cancer. It’s immoral in my mind and I think these are real issues that should be worked on. Martin Luther King said of all the forms of inequality, injustice in the health care system is the most shocking and inhuman. He knew all about inequality and discrimination. We honor his words and we honor his name, but I’m afraid we don’t take action.”

By forwarding the resolution and Amnesty International adopting it, Shanley hopes the organization will recognize a human rights-based healthcare system and not one where healthcare is a commodity.

She provided statistics, information and research on the lack of healthcare and submitted it as a resolution to regional Amnesty International conferences. The national Amnesty International organization approved the resolution. 

Shanley said the next step is mobilizing membership and putting the resolution into the strategic plan so it can be funded and brought forward.

 “Everybody regardless of income, color, sexuality, gender deserves to be treated as a human being,” Shanley said. “Just because somebody has more money it doesn’t mean they should be regarded as a higher form of human.”

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