Published in the Courier News, Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Muhlenberg gets "Giant" support
By CLEM FIORENTINO
PLAINFIELD — The New York Giants had a Cinderella season, winning the Super Bowl due largely to a miracle catch by David Tyree with time running out in the fourth quarter.
Can the same scenario play out for the acute-care facility at Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in Plainfield?
A committee of dedicated and passionate individuals certainly hopes so. And, to that end, the group has convinced several of the Super Bowl champions to appear at a rally at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday on the Plainfield High School football field.
Leading the way among the players who have committed to appear is former Hillsborough High School and Rutgers University football star Shaun O'Hara, who is noted for his charitable endeavors.
Event organizers are also hoping for Tyree himself to appear with O'Hara, and there is talk that some former Giants players might appear as well.
"They aren't just football players," said Dr. Brian Fertig, an Edison-based endocrinoligist who was the driving force behind bringing the Giants to Plainfield. "They are good people. They stand for something."
Fertig, whose father Dr. Harrison Fertig founded the coronary care unit at Muhlenberg in the 1960s, says that these Giants stand for a good cause.
"They are doing it out of conviction of doing what's right for the underprivileged," Fertig says. "The underprvileged should have rightful access to health care."
Fertig says that when he started practicing medicine, doctors were generally affiliated with only one hospital. Nowadays, they are — like professional athletes — more like free agents. He feels that his colleagues have pretty much given up on Muhlenberg and that he dislikes the feeling that officials of Solaris Health System and JFK Medical Center in Edison are ignoring Muhlenberg and can't wait to shut it down.
"We can lose as individuals, but the cause can't lose," he says. "The fundamentals of this cause are impeccable."
Fertig says he was told by Jon McGee (president and CEO of Solaris Health System) that $800,000 a month would be enough to keep Muhlenberg's acute-care facility up and running until a statewide universal health-care plan could be enacted, thereby eliminating charity- care deficits (cited as the primary cause for the impending closure).
Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Union) recently introduced a health-care plan that would phase in universal coverage over a three-year span.
That would mean upwards of $9 million per year would have to be raised to keep Muhlenberg open over that length of time.
But Solaris officials Tuesday rejected those projections.
"We lose $50,000 a day," said Solaris spokesman Steven Weiss. "You don't raise funds for operational deficiencies. Fundraising is for children and medical equipment. A month is not helpful when you have annual operating deficits eclipsing $20 million."
Meanwhile, the "Buy Muhlenberg" movement launched last week by Democratic city council candidate Olive Lynch shifted into second gear.
After announcing her intention to raise $100 million to buy the medical center from Solaris at a prayer vigil at Muhlenberg last Saturday, Lynch has now plotted a three-pronged offensive.
First, she notified the state Department of Health and Senior Services of her group's existence and asked that the state delay the granting of the petition to close Muhlenberg until there has been due diligence regarding Solaris' financial assets.
The letter also asks that representatives of "Buy Muhlenberg" be permitted to participate in the May 6 public hearing at Plainfield High School and that the state order Solaris to stop and desist from the active transfer of assets and employees from Muhlenberg to JFK (a charge Solaris officials deny).
Secondly, in a letter to the state Attorney General's office, Lynch charged that Solaris has not been transparent or forthcoming in its financial and other dealings (as mandated by their status as a nonprofit corporation).
The letter also urges the Attorney General to investigate why the "Department of Health has denied the citizens proper, fair and unbiased due process in the closing of Muhlenberg Hospital."
Lastly, she will be writing to every elected official in surrounding towns inviting them to a "brainstorming session" next week to plan a strategy for the May 6 hearing.
"The Department of Health has acted in collusion with Solaris," Lynch says. "Why have a hearing if you are going to rubber stamp them? To have a public hearing when you've already made up your mind is an insult."
Lynch, who believes that Muhlenberg has been miscast as a non-viable health-care institution and who claims to have at least two "serious investors" interested in joining her coalition, says she'll be meeting with medical personnel from Muhlenberg to talk about models that might work.
"People in the trenches have the best insight," she said.
As for the Giants, Lynch welcomes their appearance.
"We see it as two parallel tracks," she said. "The Giants' coming is in support of whatever scenario plays out. It's empowering for people to realize that they don't have to accept what they are being told. This shouldn't be a done deal, because we haven't gone through due process."
Solaris officials have been keeping a watchful eye on Lynch's efforts, which raised slightly more than $21,000 at Saturday's vigil by selling T-shirts and shares ($20 each) in "Buy Muhlenberg."
"While I applaud her passion," Weiss said, "she is starting to realize the incredible amount of the deficit."
So let me understand this, instead of getting down to the serious business of finding a resolution to a serious financial issue, these "leaders" think it's a good idea to turn this into even more of what I've already characterized as a circus. The Giants know something about the gridiron; they know nothing about solving a financial deficit in healthcare. Unless the Giants and their supporters can come up with $17MM per year there is nothing they have to contribute other than moral support, and that doesn't keep Muhlenberg open. Is the community thought to be so shallow that Muhlenberg's closing needs a Giants player to get it to pay attention?
I am again going to question Olive Lynch's actions. First, for whom does she speak that she can present any requests as if she--by virtue of her self-anointing--holds some special right. Second, we need to know the details of her organization, from whom she has received license for fundraising or, even more, to sell what seem to be equity shares in the "purchased" Muhlenberg. Post the documents on your website--surely there's a website although I can't find one--or provide us links to document that you are authorized to engage in the activities you're engaged in. If, in fact, she has raised $20,000 without going through the legal requirements for doing so, she has bigger concerns than Muhlenberg right now.
Finally, if Lynch has two "serious investors" there's a process in place that any investor would understand. Of course, as with any such sale, potential buyers have to be qualified. If they are--and if they are why would they be talking with Lynch?--Solaris's financial reps will welcome them with open arms. Then due diligence begins. That's always the process...excegt in LynchLand apparently.
The circus continues as Muhlenberg gets closer to closure! When Muhlenberg closes remember to thank Olive Lynch and her diversionary and juvenile actions. She's in it for a council seat NOT to present a meaningful alternative to the closing of Muhlenberg.
Posted: Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:46 am
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.