Monday, December 15, 2008

City Seeks Health Care Help

City residents and Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs are both pushing to have health care discussions before a Dec. 31 deadline and hope Sen. Tom Daschle will come to Plainfield to hear first-hand the community’s plight in losing Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center.

Daschle is leading the Obama Transition's Health Policy Team and is calling for nationwide input from grassroots discussions. According to a post on, Daschle will appear in person at one of the meetings.

The top news story in Plainfield this year was the loss of Muhlenberg, though activists say the fight is not over to restore an acute health care facility here.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, activist and former political candidate Deborah Dowe said residents hope to mount a public discussion before the deadline and asked for council support. Groups meeting weekly since early 2008 have amassed documentation to counter state Health Commissioner Heather Howard’s decision to accept Muhlenberg’s parent group, Solaris Health System, appeal to close the hospital.

After Dowe spoke, Robinson-Briggs said she had taken part in a conference call Monday with other mayors including Cory Booker of Newark to address the state’s loss of health care facilities. Robinson-Briggs spoke at last month’s League of Municipalities meeting on the experience of losing a community hospital and is now on the League’s executive board.

Robinson-Briggs said the mayors will be preparing a “white paper” document to send to President–Elect Barack Obama on health care issues.

At present, no date has been set for the local town meeting. Dowe suggested either Dec.28, a Sunday, after church services, or Dec. 30.

The City Council has concluded its meeting schedule for 2008 with Monday’s meeting and can offer no further official help, although officials agreed in spirit to a discussion before the end of the year.

Plaintalker will try to post details as they emerge.

--Bernice Paglia


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