Protesters: Save Muhlenberg
The proposed closing followed a reported attempt to find a buyer for the hospital, which faced a burden of charity care costs that infusions of state aid have not been able to overcome.
Speakers called for an accounting of financial decisions after Solaris Health System took over Muhlenberg, alleging the parent organization manipulated patient care to steer insured patients to JFK Medical Center to the detriment of Muhlenberg, which had to accept anyone needing care regardless of ability to pay.
Plainfield resident Nancy Piwowar said Muhlenberg saved her life in 1974, and she vowed to bring crutches from that incident to every public meeting until the hospital is rescued.
Xavier Jesus Delvi said he came to the meeting Wednesday after reading the Bible.
“We must stand together,” he said, suggesting Plainfield would see “nothing more than cemeteries” if the hospital closes.
Other speakers questioned where local Route 22 accident victims would receive emergency care and deplored the loss of many other services.
Resident Dottie Gutenkauf spoke about services such as pediatric care that have been transferred to JFK, noting there is a state program to fund it. Displaying a sheaf of brochures on Muhlenberg programs, she asked officials to keep the hospital open. As her “last exhibit,” she pointed out her husband, Josef, noting a cardiologist at Muhlenberg saved his life in 1993.
Josef Gutenkauf later railed against the proposed closing and called on the council to lead a delegation to Trenton.
“Let’s go see the governor,” he said.
Speakers said the proposed closing would affect not only the uninsured or underinsured, but even those with insurance who might lose life-or-death minutes in transport to other medical facilities.
A woman who came to Plainfield to care for her elderly mother said both she and her mother were born in Muhlenberg, along with many other relatives. She said hospital staff had saved her mother’s life four times over 10 years of strokes. She contrasted to the cost of the war in Iraq to the “need to morally to stop this trend of hospitals being about business.”
Each testimony drew applause from audience members including the Peoples’ Organization for Progress, which held a rally outside the hospital Saturday and is planning more.
After the many outpourings of concern, Councilman Don Davis said the governing body had been reaching out to authorities on the issue and hoped the protesters would join in with the same “zealous feeling” expressed Wednesday.
Muhlenberg is applying for state approval to close. Several other hospitals have had to close due to debt and failing finances.