Medical professionals call for health care, social equality

Published in Thomasville Times-Enterprise  |  Pat Donahue  |  June 15, 2020

Photo credit: Pat Donahue/Times-Enterprise
Medical Professionals gather before the start of the White Coats for Black Lives event Sunday

THOMASVILLE — Medical professionals and others gathered at the Thomas County Historic Courthouse on Sunday afternoon to call for an end to disparities in health care and justice.

The event, “White Coats for Black Lives,” brought to light inequities for blacks in health care and in the justice system.

“So today we stand in unity, we stand in solidarity, we stand together to make it better for all of our lives and our future generations to come,” said event organizer Dr. Linda Walden. “Black lives matter no matter who you are, where they’re from. What happened to George Floyd reflects the burden of being black in America.”

Said Dr. Brittany Crenshaw, “In the more recent years, and with the advent of social media, the daily occurrence of racial injustice and inequality has been displayed for all to see. Black people have endured the repeated trauma of injustice on a daily basis.”

Blacks make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, Dr. Walden noted, but their rate of contracting COVID-19 far exceeds that. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s statistics, positive cases among blacks are almost equal to those of whites.

“Yet, we have the most cases when it comes to COVID-19 and all these other diseases, diabetes, hypertension,” Dr. Walden said. “We’ve got to do something more. As physicians, we have to end these health care disparities. We need to make sure they are getting their tests done, they are getting their medicines. And we have to hold patients accountable too.”

Former Cairo mayor Booker Gainor, now a candidate for the state Legislature, called for the expansion of Medicare in the state. He also pointed out the state has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation.

Dr. Coy Irvin, who is Archbold Medical Center’s chief medical officer, added that health care disparity is a huge problem.

“And it begins with education,” he said. “It has to do with poverty, obesity, nutrition, how I do get post-op care, how do I get a ride to the doctor. They go home and they don’t have the support they need.”

There are other changes to be made, Dr. Walden and other speakers pointed out.

“When I think about all of what my people have gone through for 401 years,” she said as she turned emotional, and it hasn’t gotten any better. Even as a physician. You would think it would have stopped by now.”

Dr. Walden also called for police officers who witness another officer involved in the use of excessive force to step in and stop it. She also called for third-party investigators to probe complaints against officers.

Thomasville Police Chief Troy Rich said when he watched what happened in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of Michael Brown, not long after he was named chief, he wondered if his department would be ready if something similar happened.

“Years after, I stood in front of my community and said police reform is happening,” he said. “There is only going to be one way to have reform and that is to hold officers accountable and hold leaders accountable. You have to train on these policies and you have to supervise those policies.” 

Assistant Chief Eric Hampton said the department has had body cameras long before they became standard and all incidents of force are investigated, no matter how minor.

Lucinda Brown urged people to register to vote and to vote, along with completing the census. Brown also said that while 40 percent of the Thomas County School System’s student population is black, there are no black members of its school board.

Rev. Terry Scott also said it is time for a change.

“It’s time to start holding our elected officials accountable, from the local to the state to the federal,” he said. “We have to put these things into action. I encourage each one of you just don’t sit — put into action. Let them know we are not going to stand by and let things go on.”

Dr. Walden added that the U.S. is considered the world’s wealthiest nation but 40 percent of its people do not have access to health care.

“Health is wealth,” she said. “Let us learn to live together as a human race. People are tired of racism. We must go to the polls and vote. It is our duty and it is our right.”