Thursday, April 24, 2008

Muhlenberg - Courier - 'Save Muhlenberg' and 'Hour of Power'

Published in the Courier News, Monday, April 21, 2008

Hundreds aim to save Muhlenberg


PLAINFIELD — A mix of emotions — outrage, hope and fear — permeated throughout the gathering of Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center supporters Saturday afternoon, but one prevailing idea surmounted all others, the idea that in faith and solidarity there was power.

"You never stop trying," said Rose Marie Cathcart, a city resident who said she's been regularly coming to Muhlenberg for cardiac rehabilitation since a heart attack 10 years ago. "You keep believing and always have hope and faith that maybe something will change."

Cathcart was one of roughly 300 people who gathered at noon in the Muhlenberg parking lot at Randolph Road and Park Avenue for the Hour of Power Prayer Vigil. The event was organized by the People's Organization for Progress and led by at least 10 local religious leaders. Parishioners from Christian, Jewish and Muslim backgrounds were among those gathered.

The vigil was the latest in a series of demonstrations aimed at forcing Solaris Health System, Muhlenberg's parent company, to reverse it's decision to shut down most of the 130-year-old hospital's operations.

Solaris announced the plan in February, and the closure could begin as early as mid-June.

The prayer vigil began with the gathered breaking up into small groups, joining hands, and praying.

Rev. Carolyn Eklund, pastor at the city's Grace Episcopal Church, said the small group prayer was a moving experience.

"We were each praying for each of us and our needs," she said. "People I didn't even know we shared our names and prayed, the five of us."

Jane Lendach, a Dunellen resident who has worked at the hospital for the past 27 years, said the medical center is more than just her workplace, it's a family.

"It's sad. Very sad," she said. "Because the thing is, people don't want to leave. It's such a great place to work."

Lendach is a Catholic and she said she most often attends Mass at the hospital's chapel. She said an average of 100 people meet each Sunday morning.

Lendach said she'll have a job at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, another Solaris property, but she wants to stay at Muhlenberg.

Larry Hamm, chairman of the People's Organization for Progress, called Muhlenberg "one of the finest hospitals in the nation."

He chastised both Solaris and Commissioner Heather Howard of the state Department of Health and Senior Services for giving up on Muhlenberg. He cited recent comments by Howard indicating that Muhlenberg's closing would make the John F. Kennedy Medical Center stronger.

"We ask the commissioner to refrain from making any more negative statements until she has heard the voice of the people, and the voice of the people has to be heard," he said.

Local activist Carmen Salavarrieta said she was there Saturday to represent the city's large Hispanic population. She said other residents are fearful of speaking up because some blame the hospital's closing on charity care provided to uninsured and undocumented residents.

"People are afraid to come out," she said. "People don't feel like they have a voice."

Saturday was the first rally since efforts were announced to raise $100 million and buy the hospital. Volunteers carried around sign-up sheets asking people to purchase a "share" of the hospital for a $20 donation. Those who did received T-shirts bearing a new slogan, "Buy Muhlenberg."

Bishop Herbert Bright of the city's Faith Tabernacle Church and an executive with the Concerned Urban Clergy, said he felt Solaris wasn't interested in saving Muhlenberg.

"I don't really see them offering solutions to keep the hospital open," he said. "They (Solaris) have all told us reasons they should close. There's no talk about why they should stay open."

After a series of prayers and speeches by local clergy, the masses formed a line and began marching seven times around the parking lot. The action was meant to symbolize the biblical fall of Jericho, where Joshua and the Israelites marched around Jericho's walls and the walls crumbled.

Organizers of Saturday's event, though, are prepared for a more drawn-out battle. They will hold a mass organizational meeting at the DuCret School of the Arts, 1030 Central Ave., on Monday night at 6 p.m. That meeting will be followed by a candle light vigil at the municipal court, 325 Watchung Ave. at 7:30 p.m., just before the City Council meeting at 8 p.m.

But even as the fight wages on, Ella Nicholson, a former nurse at the hospital and resident of South Plainfield, said she'll stay hopeful.

"I'm very optimistic," she said. "God is in charge of things. I really feel prayer can work."


What about the chickens ?????????? Laughing Laughing Laughing

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 10:42 pm

cdesisgn, take your meds and calm down.

What I wrote (as opposed to what you read) is that "paying" patients--i.e., those with a choice as to the acute care facility to which they'd be directed--have increasingly opted AWAY from Muhlenberg. That is a fact and one not even the most strident Muhlenberg advocate can deny.

The rest of your posts have reached new levels of inanity. I'm not pushing anyone to any other hospitals. You need to distinguish someone who acknowledges the circumstances giving rise to Muhlenberg's closure and someone who therefore is the cause of the closure. As I have said here many times, I don't care if Muhlenberg closes. In fact, that would be a wonderful outcome, AS LONG AS IT DOES NOT REQUIRE FURTHER TAX DOLLARS (which we don't have!) OR THREATEN THE CONTINUED SOLVENCY OF SOLARIS.

Now let me try and explain how I believe healthcare works, as it relates to acute care hospitals. If Muhlenberg needs to deliver care to indigents with a value of, let's say, $15MM, when Muhlenberg closes that care will divert to one or more other hospitals. However, those other hospitals will not bear the infrastructure, personnel, administrative and other indirect costs associated with that care. And, the non-indigent care will also divert to these other facilities capable of handling it--i.e., those with some excess capacity--and that will help those other facilities.

As to how I could know what Solaris has been going through over the last 10 years since it purchased Muhlenberg...your brilliant deduction is that I must be an insider. In fact, I must be Casey. As I said in your other thread, I've been posting here for years so unless I've been laying in wait just in case Muhlenberg went under, your "theory" is patently absurd. So let's apply Ochem's razor to this issue of how I know what I know, shall we. Well, let's see. What's the most reasonable way that I could know public information about Solaris and Muhlenberg? That would be by reading published reports going back at least a year on this very topic. Anyone who can read knows that Solaris made every effort to find a buyer for Muhlenberg. That's THE most logical answer to your quest for how I could possibly know what I know. Only after you exclude the likelihood (and fact!) that that's how I come to know what I know should you move to the next most logical possibility. In this case, you'd need to go down a long list of more plausible possibilities (including knowledge infused by alien abduction and that I'm the ghost of Mr. Muhlenberg) before you got to your absurd "conclusion". Brilliant, cdesign, just briliiant!

Try and get this once and for all, because you are tiring and challenge my patience with your tangential flights of fancy. New Jersey has 78 hospitals. Twenty years ago we had 112. In the last year-and-a-half, four hospitals have closed and another four (including Muhlenberg) have announced plans to shut down; five more have filed for bankruptcy. State aid is declining. Get it! There's a little bit of a problem, and anyone who reads and cares has known about it for years. But through all your posts you--and your fellow "save Muhlenberg at any cost" proponents have yet to present a single rational reason for Muhlenberg to remain open. Yes, your family goes there. Yes, your child was born there! Those are important facts to you. Now develop some arguments that would COMPEL the State to refuse a certificate of need or a buyer to jump in or Solaris to suck it up and continue to threaten its financial well-being. So far, with each post you get more irrational, shrill and silly. What you haven't done is offer one, single solid argument to defend the hospital for which you pretend to advocate.

Why don't you hunker down, do your homework, understand the issues and challenges and come back with a thoughtful commentary, one directed at a point of view on the ISSUES. I know you WANT Muhlenberg to stay opened. Now tell us why the taxpayers and healthcare users of this State should support that proposition, the way a business person like your husband would.

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 8:24 pm


You wrote: And many voted against Muhlenberg; at least those not seeking "free care" and convenience. This is an insult to the upstanding citizens of surrounding areas. Not everyone is looking for free care and convience. My parents and other family members are looking for the fine care that Muhlenberg provided over the last 90 years. They paid their dues!!!!

In addition to the fact, that since you are pushing everyone to these other hospitals. Guess what-the problems are going to follow to the other hospitals. Now, guess what? Which hospital will be next to close? Then the next and the next! Ha! Ha! When all the hospitals are closed, where will everyone go? You claim its because of free care cases. That will happen at the next hospital too!

Now people, you think Jerseyred is so smart! Guess what-he may deal with statistical information but he is not telling you that another hospital will have the same fate as Muhlenberg once these free care cases are pushed to JFK or Overlook etc! In fact, I have suspiscions that Jerseyred is Mr. Casey for Solaris, who wants Muhlenberg to close so that Solaris can reap the benefits from JFK instead. That's why he comes across that he so smart. If he isn't Mr. Casey from Solaris he wouldn't know that Solaris tried hard to find a way to make Muhlenberg self-sustaining or at least close to self-sustaining...for years. Where is a glimmer of a reasonable plan--one Solaris didn't consider--to keep it open.

So people think it over and see Jerseyred for who is really is!

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 7:27 pm

ICare wrote..."The hospital is only one symptom of Plainfield's problems and they are many. One is education. "

Absolutely! If Muhlenberg maintained the reputation it had years ago it would be thriving. But I suspect that, as Plainfield's decline as a city progressed over the years, Muhlenberg was painted with that same broad brush of decline. And people from surrounding environs opted for a "friendlier" in Summit or Edison or New Brunswick. When people have choices--and, in this area, we have many--they vote with their feet. And many voted against Muhlenberg; at least those not seeking "free care" and convenience. Add to that the entire issue of healthcare funding, indigent care, tort reform and unnecessary medical litigation and you have the perfect storm for closing a hospital in an otherwise well-served area.

These are complex issues which not even the experts at Solaris could solve. Now a group of Monday morning amateur quarterbacks are having rallies and seeking publicity in a cause which requires careful planning, logic and, mostly, a thorough understanding of the problems. Absent that--and I have seen none of it here or in any press reports--Muhlenberg will close! Personally, I think Muhlenberg is a long-ago lost cause. However I do think it can serve as a model for what can, and will, happen if people don't wake up to the web of healthcare crises and work to strengthen the acute care facilities which remain.

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 6:33 pm

jerseyred, As I have read your words I think your background and abilities are far better than Story Chat with individuals like me. In a very few days I will be a senior senior with a future of memory loss, diapers and prayers for an eternal home. At the university, after late studies there would be a knock on the door and armed with a cool bottle, no drugs, we would sit back and discuss world shaking problems that we could not solve. I think I would like to do that again. In a nearby town a writer tried it in a library, no go. There are so many subjects to be discussed and we waste time calling others stupid. For some reason Blogs do not fill the bill. I have a few issues involving a level playing field such as utility billing and usury. In these the poor, the elderly and those trying to conserve resources are put upon. The hospital is only one symptom of Plainfield's problems and they are many. One is education.
I Care ..and will watch for your issue words in silence. Do stay up there and not to slip

Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 6:02 pm

Online story here. Archived here.

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About Me

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.