A Viewpoint on Health Care
Park Avenue used to be known as "Doctors' Row" at one time, but the ranks have thinned considerably. This began even before the Muhlenberg troubles. We used to have an opthalmologist, neurologist, endocrinologist, general practitioner, dentist and other providers right here in the city, but as I have noted before, they have all moved out.
It is my belief that no matter how many new apartments or condos get built, no matter how many shops and restaurants open, unless people have better access to health care, Plainfield will be less attractive than a community that has an adequate array of practitioners. Sure, there is the health center, but my son's experience there invariably includes hours of waiting for service. I don't know why.
Transit-oriented development is a great concept and one that I personally embrace. I would not want to be living out in Somerset or Hunterdon county suburbs where each adult in a household needs a car to get around. The other end of the spectrum is New York City or Seattle, where one can live well without a car. Plainfield has a lot of people without cars, either by choice or necessity, but also many good transit links. There are many taxis as well, but they tend to be expensive and in my experience, drivers don't follow the rate chart.
So where do people go for everyday health care and how do they get there? A lot of people go to "doc-in-a-box" centers out of town. There is still a satellite emergency department at Muhlenberg which has recently advertised service for common ailments such as colds and earaches, which in a way makes it competitive with the Plainfield Health Center. It might be interesting to compare charges for visits to each for treatment of a simple medical problem.
Now that the medical buildings on Park Avenue have largely emptied out, it's unlikely that the city will enjoy another such concentration of health care providers. What might the future hold in the way of accessibility to general practitioners and specialists? If there is any way to entice a cadre of health care providers back to the city as an adjunct to development, it should be pursued as vigorously as the push to attract developers. Health care reform without reasonable access to providers will be a hollow promise indeed.