Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Muhlenberg Closing Prompts Outcry

A flurry of action from the administration and the governing body on the Muhlenberg closing met with disappointment Monday from a group of protesters who said the effort was too little, too late.

Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, an institution for 130 years, is slated to close officially on Wednesday, although activists have tracked evidence of shutting down for the past several weeks.

On Monday (Aug. 11, 2008), Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs told the City Council and public that she held a conference call with state Health Commissioner Heather Howard about a possible buyer for the hospital, which provided acute care for about a dozen Central Jersey communities before the closing. Robinson-Briggs called the talk “quite thrilling” and said the city will be asking for a 60-day stay of the closing. The mayor said three investors will be talking to Howard on Tuesday and Howard will be visiting Plainfield this week.

The council discussed two resolutions Monday, one to establish a three-member committee to serve as liaisons to all existing Muhlenberg groups and another to make seven requests to Howard for information on topics such as what services will be available in the emergency room, hours and capacity of proposed shuttle service, expanded ambulance service and disposition of Muhlenberg Foundation funds.

Both resolutions will be voted on at the regular council meeting next Monday at 8 p.m. in Municipal Court, 325 Watchung Ave.

As the meeting proceeded, about 30 members of the Muhlenberg activist group filed in to City Hall Library. The protesters have been meeting every Monday for months, and that was one of their complaints.

“I’m so happy that you have come out from under your rock,” activist Gayle Jones told the council, noting the group has been presenting evidence since February of a plan by parent company Solaris to close Muhlenberg.

“All of you have just decided to ignore us,” Jones said.

Activist Nancy Piwowar named a multitude of unresolved issues related to the closing, including how endowments would be handled.

Protester Brenda Gilbert told the council, “I’m disappointed in you all. We came to you many times and you set silent.”

Gilbert banged on the council table and citing disrespect to the grassroots committee, asked the council members, “How can you sleep at night?”

Latin American Coalition President Flor Gonzalez claimed that Latino beating victims were taken to JFK Medical Center in Edison since the diverting of patients took place, but were only given aspirin and sent home. Gonzalez said she had to seek help for the victims at other hospitals.

Community activist Dottie Gutenkauf said an Alcoholics Anonymous group that met at Muhlenberg sought direction on the closing, but was given notice only on Friday, Aug. 10 that the program had to relocate after the regular meeting on the following Sunday. Gutenkauf called it an incident of “disrespect and disregard.”

Even though the new council committee will only be approved Monday, members plan to meet Thursday to discuss the crisis. As reported in the print media, patients will face emergency ambulance rides to remote hospitals that will be triple or quadruple the time it used to take to reach Muhlenberg. Activists say the prolonged time will result in needless deaths.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

But it needed to close because it was losing money. And, of course, the fact that Solaris is now looking to expand JFK should not be interpreted that there was polittics in the game. Of course not!

The council, the administration, the Mayor, and Jerry Green. Shame on you! Showing up for a march is not enough. No more!

The people of Plainfield MUST start taking an active role in getting this city back.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "game" is and has been corporate greed. Solaris' closing Muhlenberg and then asking for financial aid to expand because of "the shortage of beds created by Muhlenberg's closing" is the height of gall, but it's the first honest thing they've said--that closing Muhlenberg creates problems for other hospitals. Of course they're only concerned about JFK and their other operations that generate a profit.

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is beyond comprehension that Green/Briggs/Council have the capability to reverse the closing of Muhlenberg. Further, their rhetoric is politics as usual. It it is election time! It is grandstanding pure and simple. The closings of Muhlenberg is an economic decesion. The income and demographics of the Muhlenberg serving communities is not adequate. And this is the rub. Green/Briggs, etc. failure to deal with the issues that would attract money to Plainfield is the over riding issue for Plainfield's economic decline and the closing of the hospital. It is Plainfield politicans self-serving agenda, at the expense of the well being of Plainfield,that has contributed to the closing of Muhlenberg. We need look no further than the pot-holed condition of Plainfield streets to confirm inept self-serving nature of the people that have served Plainfield as elected officals over the past 30 years. We can moan & cry all we want, but unless we speak with our vote expect more of the same. The investor in the wing is more of the same. Shame on you Sharon Briggs.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Solaris is flat out contradicting themselves because when one looks at their CN and the SHPB's report, they mention about the "availability of other beds" at the other "area" hospitals in their case to close Muhlenberg. Thus their "excessive beds" flawed argument should rightfully bite them in the arse.

JFK obviously wants a "get out of jail free card" because they jumped the gun big time by already expanding way before MRMC closed. Just look at the humongous parking lot they constructed a few months ago. Wonder where they got those funds? They arrogantly assumed that the overwhelming majority of the MRMC service area would obediently go there by default. This is not the case - and Solaris is worried as they didn't anticipate the colossal exodus (read: boycott). This is why Solaris is now whining about "closing MRMC causing problems for other area hospitals" because people are taking their business to the - oh no! - "competition!" I know for a fact that Overlook is happily going to expand and they can prove the need. Can JFK do the same without oiling the usual palms?

5:57 PM  

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