Friday, March 07, 2008

Muhlenberg - Courier - Green forms task force

Published in the Courier News, Friday, March 7, 2008

Task force formed to study alternatives to Muhlenberg


PLAINFIELD — A day after City Council members unanimously adopted a resolution demanding the continued full-service operation of Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, Assemblyman Jerry Green said Thursday he convened a task force to address the impending closure.

Meanwhile, residents and community groups continued to organize additional protests aimed at pressing officials to find a way to keep Plainfield's largest private employer in business.

"It is vital to have all of the health-care providers in the area at the table, working together, to develop alternatives and options for our most vulnerable residents impacted by the closing of Muhlenberg," Green said in a statement. "We have set an aggressive agenda that will produce specific recommendations by May 2008."

Green said the first task-force meeting included, among others, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, executives from Muhlenberg and its parent company, Solaris Health Systems, as well as representatives from surrounding hospitals that will likely see an influx of patients following the closure.

The Democratic Assemblyman said the task force will identify priorities that area hospitals and health centers need to address, such as adequate transportation options for local patients who will need to travel elsewhere for service.

Muhlenberg's financial crisis, officials have said, is the result of declining patient volumes, competition from free-standing outpatient surgery centers and millions of dollars in losses from underfunded charity care the facility must provide to uninsured patients.

The medical center is expected to shut its acute-care facility by the end of the summer, leaving only a satellite emergency room and school of nursing operational. The closure could equate to the loss of 1,000 jobs, according to officials, who said they will work to retain employees at other medical centers.

Included in the city's resolution supporting Muhlenberg are paragraphs lauding the hospital as a "beacon of health" for the region for more than 130 years that has "rightfully earned a reputation as a consistent provider of emergency, acute and long term health care."

Medical-center employees and members of the public told officials as much during passionate testimonials Wednesday, when a parade of residents implored City Council members to save the hospital or rallied each other to keep up the fight. Many residents also told stories of how Muhlenberg personnel saved their lives or those of loved ones — some more than once.

Plainfield's chapter of the People's Organization For Progress, which has coordinated a curbside rally in front of the hospital, will hold another organizational meeting in the ongoing campaign against the closure at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the duCret School of Art, 1030 Central Ave.

The group has scheduled a second protest for noon March 15 at the corner of Randolph Road and Park Avenue.

For more information on the rally, call Steven Hatcher, chairman of the Plainfield branch of People's Organization For Progress, at (908) 731-1518, or state Chairman Lawrence Hamm at (973) 801-0001.

Brandon Lausch can be reached at (908) 707-3175 or

Online story here. Archived here.

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.