May Day! May Day! May Day!
As the clock runs down on closing Plainfield's Muhlenberg hospital, activity by supporters is bringing to light previously unknown opportunities for local elected officials to save the hospital. Opportunities it appears they ignored.
At an informational meeting for elected officials of neighboring communities comprising Muhlenberg's primary market area, Council members from Scotch Plains, Westfield and North Plainfield peppered the meeting's moderator, Olive Lynch, with questions about the timing of the proposed closing, the health and economic impacts of the closure, and about the idea of establishing a 'hospital authority' by a number of the towns to take over and continue Muhlenberg's operations.
Attendees were given an eye-opening presentation on Solaris' moves over the years of profitable operations out of Muhlenberg to JFK -- radiology, pathology, and ob-gyn. Plans to move cardiac rehab to JFK were stymied by massive opposition from Muhlenberg's cardiac rehab user community. In addition, it was reported Solaris has sold off its dialysis unit (the property subdivision was previously reported here) and, most recently, its cardiac catheterization lab.
As one participant said, "Basically, what we have here is a non-profit entity behaving like a corporate raider."
Lynch, founder of the 'Buy Muhlenberg' effort, introduced the idea of forming a 'hospital authority' in the way that Hoboken was able to do to save its St. Mary's Hospital. She reported on conversations with Assemblywoman Joan Quigley (D-Hudson) on how legislation was crafted that saved St. Mary's.
In today's Courier, a front-page story by Clem Fiorentino on last night's meeting (I couldn't find it online) quotes Quigley as saying there are differences and similarities between Plainfield and Hoboken, the chief of which is that the religious order that operated St. Mary's was willing to grant time for the proposal to be crafted and legislation passed.
Solaris clearly will NOT contemplate such a delay in its closure plans.
But more revealing is that Quigley says she met several months ago with Assemblyman Jerry Green, Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, Scotch Plains Mayor Marty Marks and Solaris CEO John McGee, and discussed the possibility of a 'municipal consortium' taking over Muhlenberg.
While McGee's attempt to weasel out of acknowledging the substance of the meeting is transparent, the REAL NEWS here is that I cannot recall Assemblyman Green or Mayor Robinson-Briggs bringing this option before the City Council or the community in a timely fashion.
Note that SEVERAL MONTHS WOULD HAVE MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD, if the Assemblyman and the Mayor were REALLY interested in saving Muhlenberg.
Instead, Assemblyman Green was busily enabling Solaris' plan for the closure by assembling his task force to execute same. (The Courier's March 7 story is archived here.)
You will search in vain through Mayor Robinson-Briggs' lengthy March 6, 2008 OpEd in the Courier (in which she took time to start by blasting the Courier for not honoring her as the 'queen bee' in all things Plainfield) to find any mention of setting up a consortium to rescue the hospital. (Her Honor's 'Status Dire But Hopeful' piece is archived here.)
Unless Assemblyman Green and Mayor Robinson-Briggs are willing to publicly accuse Assemblywoman Quigley of being a liar, they need to 'fess up and explain why they did not take up this opportunity to save Muhlenberg while there was still time.
Otherwise, if Muhlenberg closes because of their chicanery, they will be forever known as 'Jerry and Sharon, the couple who closed Muhlenberg'.
-- Dan Damon
View today's CLIPS here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.