Published in the Courier News, Tuesday, April 22, 2008
McGee: Hospital funds gone
Money issues shuttering Muhlenberg
By BRANDON LAUSCH
PLAINFIELD — In a municipal courthouse packed with about 120 people devastated by the impending loss of most of their local hospital, a top official of Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center reiterated his compassion Monday night for the employees and residents affected by the planned closing.
John McGee, president and CEO of Solaris Health System, Muhlenberg's nonprofit parent company for the past decade, described a health-care system in crisis Monday as he spoke to City Council members and the assembled crowd.
Citing low reimbursement rates from the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, staggering losses for providing state-mandated charity care to uninsured patients, and the disappearance of vital grant funding, McGee said he and other officials have little choice but to seek state assistance to close the hospital.
"I wish Solaris had the money, the funds, to get through this crisis, but it doesn't," McGee said to a crush of residents who rallied outside the courthouse in the hour leading up to the City Council meeting.
McGee's presentation also followed the recent formation of a grassroots campaign dubbed "Buy Muhlenberg!" The effort, seeking to raise $100 million to keep the hospital open, kicked off Saturday with an "Hour of Power Prayer Vigil to Save Muhlenberg."
The group — which sold $20 "shares" to community members demonstrating outside of the medical center — raised $21,890 in pledges for the nascent hospital buyback campaign, Plainfield resident and City Council candidate Olive Lynch said Sunday in an online letter to supporters.
Lynch's effort is the latest in a series of campaigns, rallies and vigils — most organized by the Plainfield branch of the People's Organization for Progress — that have prompted hundreds of concerned residents to march on the sidewalks of Plainfield and travel to the Statehouse in Trenton to protest the impending hospital closing.
Solaris in February announced its intent to close Muhlenberg by the end of the summer, citing overwhelming financial losses and an unsuccessful campaign to sell the 130-year-old medical center. Hospital officials recently submitted to the state a certificate of need for closure and notified employees that the downsizing could come anytime after June 15.
A satellite emergency room will remain at the Plainfield campus, along with its school of nursing, imaging center and other ancillary services. Solaris has committed to retaining roughly 350 of Muhlenberg's 1,100 employees both in Plainfield and other Solaris locations, including JFK Medical Center in Edison.
Still, residents have chastised hospital officials and government leaders for not doing more to save the facility and for not sending clearer warning signals to the community before news of the hospital's demise made front-page headlines.
Even though time appears to be dwindling, longtime Plainfield resident Brenda Gilbert said Monday night that she hasn't given up. Carrying a cardboard cross with "Save Muhlenberg" written on its front, Gilbert said there "ain't no hope, there's a God."
"God is our hope," she said minutes before the start of Monday's meeting. "And God can do anything but fail."
Brandon Lausch can be reached at (908) 707-3175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If local citizens attempt to find a solution to save the hospital thats great. If you disagree with trying to buy the hospital, what is your suggestion? To refer to someones employment status or political desires is childish. Since when did it become unpopular to get involved?
Posted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 10:36 pm
Wizard wrote..."Jr I know I come off as an azz sometimes. But you were so right about what you said about me . Its getting old....."
You're telling me! In the midst of all the stupidity being thrown about by some of these self-styled "save Muhlenberg" folks there are solid employees whose lives are being thrown into upheaval and chaos through no fault of their own. The really unfortunate thing is that the noise is all coming from people who appear completely unwilling or unable--or both--to proceed in a rational, businesslike manner. The loud mouths which have stepped into the vacuum left by an absence of really good leadership on the "save Muhlenberg" side are causing more harm than good. Can you ever have imagine that the two highest profile forces opposing the closing of Muhlenberg are an unemployed IT wannabe politician whose solution is to try and raise $100MM by selling (illegally I believe) $20 shares and a group which is notoriously radical in every respect. And even here when I have suggested that these hyper-emotional posters develop a sound counter-argument to the very compelling case presented by Solaris the only answer is more childish postings that are always completely unresponsive and off-point.
>From everything I have read, Muhlenberg needs to close. Nevertheless, it would have been nice to have seen a respectful and considered "opposition" develop to raise serious alternatives. Time's wasting and, so far, nothing!
Posted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 7:54 pm
No problem I know times are ruff for alot of people.
Posted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 7:42 pm
I couldn't agree with you more jersey. MRMC has been having financial problems for years. People certainly have made a circus out of this. Where were they a few years back when maybe something could have been done. I guess this is just the cause for the moment. Wizard, I'm just speaking out of anger. No offense intened.
Posted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 7:29 pm
Jr I know I come off as an azz sometimes. But you were so right about what you said about me Laughing . Its getting old.....
Posted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 6:46 pm
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.