Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Muhlenberg - Courier - Solaris meets with 'community leaders'

Published in the Courier News, Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Solaris, leaders talk about hospital closing


PLAINFIELD — Solaris Health System on Tuesday opened to community leaders for a free-wheeling discussion of issues stemming from the announced closing of the acute-care facility at Muhlenberg Medical Center.

Solaris in February announced its intent to close the facility by the end of the summer, citing overwhelming financial losses, such as an estimated $17 million in 2007. A satellite emergency room would remain at the Muhlenberg campus, along with its school of nursing and imaging center. About 1,000 jobs would be eliminated although Solaris hopes to retain about one-third of them at other Solaris locationS.

Tom Casey, vice president of public relations and marketing for Solaris, said representatives were in the Muhlenberg board room to help the community "better understand the dire economic circumstances that are forcing the closure of Muhlenberg, as well as to discuss any questions or concerns you may have on behalf of your constituency."

Representatives from the Plainfield Health Center; Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs; Jim Uffer, president of the Plainfield Chamber of Commerce; numerous local clergy and social service agency administrators; and Lawrence Hamm, chairman of the People's Organization for Progress, attended the meeting.

Upon learning of the meeting, People's Organization for Progress organized a rally outside the medical center while the meeting was in progress.

About 70 protesters stood at the corner of Park Avenue and Randolph Street presenting their four-part agenda:
  • They want Muhlenberg to stay open as a full-service hospital.

  • They want an immediate halt to the transfer of services and departments to other hospitals.

  • They want the status quo maintained until the process of the Certificate of Need for closure is completed.

  • They want Muhlenberg to adhere to the process required by the Commission on Health and Senior Services, including a total community needs assessment before the hospital is closed.
"This is the first time in my life I asked for the maintenance of the status quo," Hamm said.

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.