Saturday, February 23, 2008

Muhlenberg Closing Caps Exodus

At her visit to the Senior Center Feb. 5, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs said she had asked Gov. Jon Corzine to “help keep the doors open” at Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center. She said she spoke to the governor at a meeting he held with all the mayors of Union County.

But as the dailies have reported, Muhlenberg expects to close later this year.

The mayor said one problem was that people from Perth Amboy were using the emergency room for health care. Mayoral mentor Assemblymen Jerry Green also spoke about the hospital Feb. 5, saying “We need Muhlenberg here in Plainfield.”

But he cited funding issues and said the state cannot afford to subsidize hospitals, claiming Muhlenberg was losing $50,000 a day.

Referring to people picked up for public intoxication, Green said they don’t get “locked up” but are instead taken to Muhlenberg because their problem is considered a disease.

Whatever the many burdens are on Muhlenberg, the hospital closing just caps a long, slow exodus of medical providers from Park Avenue. Doctors’ Row has become Real Estate Row, but where are those who settle here going to go for health care? Over the years we have seen a primary care physician move to South Plainfield, as did our ophthalmologist. The neurologist moved to Warren. A psychologist moved to Watchung. The dentist moved to Edison. Previously, all of these practitioners were within walking distance on Park Avenue.

Projections for redevelopment in Plainfield add up to many hundreds of new residents, presumably affluent enough to have health insurance. But now it is too late for them to leaven the mix of medical consumers and balance out the uninsured that have overwhelmed Muhlenberg and other New Jersey hospitals. And now market forces, cited as a factor in hospital failures, are depressing new housing construction.

Is there a way out of this downward spiral? Both the mayor and Green say they have tried to get help, but the trend seems inexorable. Health care, housing and other costs are forcing harsh choices on individuals and families. A Muhlenberg worker who lives in our neighborhood was mulling her choices recently and ultimately said loss of her job would mean moving halfway across the country to live with relatives until she can regroup. Multiply the misery by 1,000 – the estimated layoff number - and it is a looming disaster for the city.

--Bernice Paglia


Blogger Dark Cloud said...

This saddens me so, so much. I can't imagine that I ever saw a time that Plainfield would be without a hospital and yet, when JFK grew to the size it did, the writing became to be on the wall and I wondered how long they would last.

Such a fine place with so much potential, Plainfield is, and seems that the same retread leaders run her into the ground with their own agendas and in-fighting.

How exasperating.

7:02 PM  

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