Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, February 22, 2008

Muhlenberg Hospital to close

A ward in Muhlenberg's original building in the 4th Ward.

Solaris Healthsystems delivered the bad news to the board of Plainfield's Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center this morning.

After an illustrious 131 years, Plainfield will no longer have an acute-care community hospital.

A detailed review of four proposals submitted to Solaris for the purchase of Muhlenberg simply left enough issues unresolved -- primarily the hospital's indebtedness -- to make any one of them a viable option.

Accordingly, Solaris will file with the state by March 1st for a 'certificate of need' by which the state will grant permission to shut the acute-care facility down. The entire process is estimated to take about six months, meaning the hospital could shut down by September.

In a press release, Solaris CEO John McGee says that while there will no longer be acute-care services at the Muhlenberg facility, Solaris will operate a satellite Emergency Room at the facility and continue the Home Care services operation as well as the newly opened School of Nursing. (Paradoxically, while hospitals are struggling financially, there is an acute nursing shortage throughout the country.)

The new Snyder School of Nursing under construction.

The financial woes at Muhlenberg have mounted year over year. Like other hospitals, charity care reimbursement comes in at around 40¢ on the dollar, meaning 60
¢ of expenses had to be taken by the hospital with no hope for reimbursement. Losses for the current year are in excess of $11 million and are projected to be over $17 million for 2009, and have simply reached the level that they are unsustainable.

The state may well say that the problem is the federal government does not have a sufficient reimbursement plan, which is a nationwide problem. And that may change once a new administration is in place in Washington. But that, of course, will be no help for Muhlenberg.

Is it possible for buyer to surface before the shutdown? Possible, but not likely. The offers already received are the best that are out there. Those who may think that Solaris has ditched Muhlenberg in order to save JFK might be surprised to learn that JFK has its own financial woes and may eventually suffer the same fate as Muhlenberg.


Closing Muhlenberg is going to have a long-term deleterious economic impact on Plainfield.

Not only will many of the jobs evaporate, putting financial stresses on former employees that may lead to loss of homes and apartments, health insurance and other calamities, there will be a ripple effect throughout the community.

Without a hospital, what incentive will doctors have to have large offices in Plainfield, particularly along the Park Avenue 'Doctor's Row'?

Not much, far as I can see.

So, as we slide into a recession that has already impacted Plainfield's residential real estate market -- and may well do so for several years -- we can now face the prospect of more vacant professional buildings.

That will include not only the larger medical office complexes, but the smaller former residences which have been converted into offices for doctors and allied health services.

All of this could have tax consequences, both rising back taxes and falling tax receipts as property values fall and more and more property owners appeal their assessments.

Could all this have been averted?

I don't know for sure, but I do know that the Green/Robinson-Briggs administration must bear the burden of not having tried to do ANYTHING. As I have pointed out before, there WAS something the Green/Robinson-Briggs administration could be doing --
THE GREEN/ROBINSON-BRIGGS ADMINISTRATION can get off its behind and do something about establishing the Medical Enterprise Zone (MEZ) that was proposed by the McWilliams administration a few years ago. Despite the obviously critical situation for Muhlenberg, nothing whatsoever has been done by the current administration to implement this important economic development and marketing tool.

Firmly establishing such a zone by further extending the Urban Enterprise Zone boundary down both sides of Park Avenue past Muhlenberg to the South Plainfield line would be a significant first step.

Developing a highly targeted outreach to physician practices -- especially those whose specialties, such as imaging, involve expensive medical equipment -- could turn Park Avenue once again into a Doctor's Row that draws on and feeds into Muhlenberg. One advantage for medical practices to locate in such MEZs is that capital purchases (such as large, expensive equipment) would be exempt from the NJ sales tax. That would come to $70,000 on a $1M piece of equipment. Starts to sound like real money, doesn't it?

But alas, they wouldn't seem to know an opportunity if it walked up and bopped them in the nose.

Perhaps I am being too harsh. Perhaps the Assemblyman has a developer in his hip pocket who can turn the Muhlenberg campus into a 'transit oriented development'.


Order a sandwich platter! This could get interesting.

-- Dan Damon

View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.



Anonymous said...

There is so much to say here. But simply put, thank you, Dan, for having the chutzpah to speak out.

Anonymous said...

Briggs-Robinson is the worst thing that has happened to Plainfield. Her ineffectiveness is bad enough, but her idleness on this issues is destructive.

Is there any way the good citizens of Plainfield can get her out of office now?

Anonymous said...

I have said it before and I hope someone investigates this: Who really owns the land and hospital? Most hospitals from this era were built and paid for by the community. Dose Solaris really have something to sell??

Anonymous said...

It's about time to focus on the real problem: hospitals are not allowed to turn uninsured patients away, particularly those who use the emergency room as if it were a family practice clinic. The plight of those who cannot afford health care or insurance is a serious problem too, but why should it take an entire hospital and an entire city down with it?

Anonymous said...

This is a devastating blow to the Muhlenberg community - both to the staff/volunteers/physicians and to the patients served by the hospital. Unfortunately it is a warning sign of a much larger and more complex problem - the State of Healthcare in our country. Indeed, the 2009 federal budget is projected to have a decrease of 200 million for Medicare and Medicaid programs. If hospitals cannot survive with today's rate of reimbursement, how can we ask them to survive with less? It is unreasonable, not to mention stupid to expect businesses - and healthcare is a business - to provide services and not even cover their out of pocket costs to provide such services.

The loss of Muhlenberg signals a failure of our society to care for the most vulnerable of us all - the sick and injured. This problem will only continue to worsen until we hold ourselves and our elected officials responsible for policy decisions. The health care crisis is here and the seeds of disaster have been sown. May we all be protected from our passivity and indifference. It is a problem which will impact us all.

Lisa, RN

Anonymous said...

The New Jersey politicians know that the residents of Plainfield will not raise their voices. Plainfield is a captive constituency for the machine Democrats. They can do whatever they want to Plainfield and the vote will be the same. Solaris was in an impossible financial position. 30% of the patients have no insurance. People are literally flying in from other countries to deliver babies. We have illegal immigrants with advanced, neglected diabetes and kidney failure. They would die in their own countries. We have lots of working poor with no benefits. They are competing with slaves in Asia.

A Muhlenberg Physician

Anonymous said...

Where are the outraged citizens of Plainfield hiding? The loss of Muhlenberg will have a major impact on the health and economy of the people of Plainfield. If your elected officials won't rise up in anger to try to stop this disaster, the people should. Our government has abdicated their responsibility to care for the indigent, a burden which Muhlenberg cannot possibly shoulder without adequate state aid. What kind of message would it send to the state to let Muhlenberg go without a fight from the community which benefits from it?

Anonymous said...

How wrong-headed is policy that will provide $70,000,000 to close a hospital but NOTHING to cover the cost of the care that the closing hospital had to provide.

How wrong-headed is a Governor that would commission a study to rationalize healthcare in NJ and not publish the names to the institutions that were studied. Hospitals that were of high quality and provided essential services, particularly to underserved people should survive.

It is so painfully obviously that he has no political sense of his own and that which he buys is worthless. People will eventually see through his machination and attempts to put things over on the people of NJ. It didn't work for Florio and it won't work for him.

Muhlenberg neighbor.

Anonymous said...

"Muhlenberg Hospital was founded in 1877 when the residents of Plainfield realized, after a tragic accident, that their community needed a health care facility. A railroad brakeman had fallen from a passing coal train and the surgeon treating him had to amputate his leg in the only facility available, a railroad freight shed. Following this incident, the residents of Plainfield planned, financed, and built the city’s first hospital on Muhlenberg Place, now West Third Street."
The above is a brief synosis on the facility's website. As noted Muhlenberg was founded after a tragic accident.
This new developement both scares and angers me because I hope it does not take another tragic accident to demand that which is
needed. Also, while the mayor and the mentor appears to have resigned themselves, I am wondering if there was an attempt to reach out to surrounding areas such as north and south plainfields for support. This lost will not only ripple locally, but cross county lines as well as.
I pray that the voices of the many will rise up on this matter. It's a real sad day when we see dollars being found for luxury condo construction when funds go lacking for that which is a need -- and far from a luxury.
or should we just stock up on bottles of whiskey and keep a surgeon in the wood shed in case of an emergency?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I heard that this property is going to possibly be considered as a Drug Addiction Treatment Facility. Does anyone else know about this?

ddrincon said...

I just found this blog. I do not have any idea what happened to the hospital. I was born there in 1953 and five years later a doctor ordered a nurse to give my mother too much meds and it killed her. Something I just found out about five years ago and I'm 57 now. I lost my mom when I was five because of that.

Anonymous said...

My husband was born in Muhlenberg in 1935, my son in 1957. I was a patient of Dr. Eugene Salvati's in 1958. I remember him as a wonderful man and doctor. I was in the hospital there in July, 1958. I remember one evening he came in; his wife had just had a baby. I moved away in Nov. 1958 and I've thought of him often. I wonder if he is still alive. If so, there's one lady here who would like to thank him for his kindness. Also, Dr. Brokaw attended my brother who died on Oct. 23, 1957--a wonderful doctor.

Anonymous said...

I to was born in mulenburg hospital in 1958. I got very sick at 6months old n was taken to mulenburg for a long 6months stay as my family came in in out to visit my parents I thank the nurses n the doctor who is now passes dr moorehead .....he remained my doctor til I was at least 10 yrs old he saved my lil lifeless body n here I am now 53 !! I came upon this article just now 1912 I thought mulenburg would always be there but to my surprise I was shocked to read this all n am sorry to here about the story's told my baby was born THIER as was my mother my brother also was born n died THIER I will always ha e my memrios of that big hospital that I ALWAYS grew up to ,,, big long sigh Debbie.

Anonymous said...

After being married for several years, my first child finally arrived and was born at Muhlenberg in 2007. I have fond memories of this great hospital and its staff. I live outside the US and had googled the hospital a moment ago to schedule a medical check on my son. What a shock to learn of the closure of this facility barely a year after his birth there.

By the way, I flew in from Nigeria to have my baby at Muhlenberg and I did pay all the bills to the last cent, to the consternation of friends and some hospital staff who wanted me to apply for medicaid or some other escape route. The point? Not all aliens (legal/illegal) used the hospital without paying, as implied by the "Muhlenberg Physician".

CU, Lagos