Saturday, April 12, 2008

Muhlenberg - Courier - WARN letters go out for June 15

Published in the Courier News, Saturday, April 12, 2008

Muhlenberg workers get 60-day letter

Staff told downsizing can start after June 15


PLAINFIELD — Employees of the acute-care facility at Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center have been put on notice that the closing could come anytime after June 15.

By Tuesday, they will have received a WARN (Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notificiation) letter from Solaris Health System giving them 60 days notice that the downsizing is imminent.

Under federal statute (passed by Congress in 1998), employers who are planning either a closing or a mass layoff must give employees 60 days notice prior to any employnent action. This does not mean the acute-care portion of the facility will close on that day, only that it is the "earliest potential date" for closure and that no downsizing can take place before that date.

The certificate of need for closure still has to be approved by the state and, before that, two public hearings — one in Plainfield and one in Trenton — must take place.

A WARN letter is a strictly worded document. All the employer has to do is fill in the date. "The language in the letter cannot be modified," said Steven Weiss, a Solaris spokesman.

Keenly aware of the how impersonal the letter might be considered, Shirley Higgins-Bowers, vice president of human resources for Solaris, said she is committed to deal with employees on a personal level. She met with employees last week before the letter was sent.

"We want to communicate in person, explain why the notice has to go out," she said. "They're upset. It has been very difficult to communicate. We have a deep sense of responsibility. We want to do what we can."

To that end, Solaris, Muhlenberg's parent company, has thus far made commitments to 350 of Muhlenberg's 1,100 employees. And a job fair, involving 33 external employers (health-care companies and other area hospitals) will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday at the medical center.

"We still have vacancies at our JFK campus," said Pat Cooke, director of human resources for Solaris. "We have maintained strong retention throughout the whole period."

In addition to the satellite emergency room, there will be several ancillary departments left or moved to the Plainfield campus. These include the nursing school, a home-care unit, a dialysis center, imaging services and medical records.

"There will still be a significant number of people on campus," said Tom Casey, vice president of marketing for Solaris.


Johnsmith wrote..."Could the problem be CHARITY CARE"

HMMM! Since that's been the topic of a ton of posts here over the last 6 months, I suspect you won't get anyone who's been awake to disagree with THAT conclusion. Of course, it's called indigent care now, not "charity care".


Posted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 5:33 pm

Could the problem be CHARITY CARE

Posted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 4:07 pm

ICare wrote..." I left in 1963 and have no idea where Solaris came from. "

Here's my recollection, which may be less-than-accurate. JFK Medical and its affiliates (like Johnson Rehab, Neuroscience Institute et al) acquired Muhlenberg Hospital some years ago. At that time it became a hospital system, named Solaris. These systems, providing continuums of care or meeting other perceived needs, are all over...St. Barnabas, Atlantic Health, Robert Wood Johnson, Cathedral. I may be wrong but it feels like stand-alone hospitals are more the exception than the rule today. I think the premise is that the system design enables synergies and certain other strategic advantages. The simple fact with Muhlenberg is that it's time has passed. It can't attract patients from the outlying suburbs. It simply doesn't have the reputation it did many years ago; and being in Plainfield has, frankly, not been a positive.

Combine this with what is a serious crisis in healthcare economics. Something's got to give, and it will always be--be it in biology, business or healthcare--the weakest of the pack that goes. Muhlenberg has a storied past. But the key word is "past". It's time to go. It's been inevitable for years and, from my perch, the Solaris acquisition forestalled that inevitability. I believe Solaris is to be commended for its acquisition of an institution it tried to help bring to solvency, and for struggling to maintain it for all these years. That is not a denigration of the Muhlenberg staff. It is a combination of factors, from unreimbursed care to a declining host city, which brought the hospital to its fate.

Posted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 3:58 pm

Did they treat the chicken people at this place ???? Laughing

Posted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 3:29 pm

jerseyred, we have sparred several times. This time you are right on. Plainfield had everything. Mom used to put me on the #18 to the Lobby of the Queen City Hotel for a haircut. The hotel went and so did the bus. The WPA built storms for the entire city. They are most likely plugged. And then the coup, the schools. Do remember the famous 1963 fourth grade plan. Then came a classmate, Officer Gleason. Why would anybody expect the hospital to remain. I left in 1963 and have no idea where Solaris came from. A favor, pray tell where from and who?
I Care... My tennis partner and friend at Cedarbrook Park was an "African" American named Bill Wolf(?)

Posted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 2:21 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.