[Note: Only the initial part of the story was published online by mycentraljersey.com; balance transcribed by DD.]
Published in the Courier News, Tuesday, May 20, 2008.
Online headline: Solaris may be willing to negotiate a selling price for Muhlenberg Medical Center
Muhlenberg to stay open?
Solaris offers proposal to keep hospital running
By CLEM FIORENTINO
Solaris Health System might be willing to negotiate a price for keeping the acute-care facility at Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center open until a management team can be put in place to run a streamlined facility that would ensure basic health-care needs for the people of Plainfield and its surrounding areas.
This dramatic development emerged Monday when Assemblyman Gerald Green (D-Union) announced that he would introduce a "serious developer'' who would outline his plans for keeping Muhlenberg open at a special community meeting set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Washington Community School, 427 Darrow Ave. in Plainfield.
According to Green, the developer -- Drew Piscatelli of South Amboy -- would be willing to partner with either Solaris or Somerset Medical Center in Somerville in a plan that would give ownership of the medical center to the city of Plainfield and turn management of the facility over to "whoever is willing to step up.''
"Initally, Solaris was asking for $48 million,'' Green said. "That amount of money was chasing away every potential party. The numbers are a lot different now. We're down to $18 million. That's a big difference. Investors have shown tremendous interest.''
In outlining his plan for a streamlined facility, Green said that people will just have to realize that this is the direction that health-care is taking in the state of New Jersey.
"Short-range, we might have to downsize,'' Green said. "Long-range, we have to have the services that are really needed.''
Green said that would include an emergency room, an acute-care facility and other central services that don't necessarily compete with larger hospitals like JFK Medical Center in Edison (another Solaris facility), Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick and Somerset Medical Center in Somerville.
"It would be more like a shopping mall,'' Green said. "We would be providing ample services where we can turn a profit.''
[Below this point transcribed by DD.]
Again, Green see this as part of the way health care is evolving in today's world.
"Already, we have a lot of doctors who are performing services off-campus," Green said. "We need to find a way to generate tax dollars for the city."
Green convened a task force of concerned citizens and administrators from surrounding hospitals in the wake of the Solaris announcement in February.
In the streamlined "medical mall" setup, Green envisions perhaps 100 beds in the acute-care facililty. Primarily, however, Green wants to make sure that Plainfield residents do not have to travel an extra half-hour or more to get the services they need -- especially for coronary care and childbirth.
On Wednesday, Gree said he expected Piscatellil to lay out a plan for the community and explan to the public what can be done.
In addition, Green is asking the state not to rush into ruling on the Solaris application to close the acute-care facililty. he also wants the state to keep the acute-care license open and Solaris to leave Muhlenberg intact until a decision can be made.
Solaris, however, does not share Green's vision.
"Solaris appreciates all that Assemblyman Green is doing in regards to Muhlenberg," said Solaris spokesman Steven Weiss. "Unfortunately, we are seeking a buyer who is capable of running the facility as an acute-care hospital. We continue to move forward with an orderly closure that allows Solaris to provide health-care services to the residents of the community."
On May 6, the State Health Planning Board conducted a public hearing on Solaris' application for a certificate of need for closure of the acute-care facility at the 130-year-old hospital. More than 1,200 people attended the hearing. Given the overflow crowd and the fact that not everyone who wished to speak could be heard, both Green and Judy Donlen, chairman of the board, asked for a second hearing. That is now scheduled for 6 p.m. June 5, also at the high school.
Solaris' announcement of its intention to close the acute-care facility and leave behind a satellite emergency roon, the school of nursing and several ancillary facilities touched off a round of protests, prayer vigils and rallies, both in Plainfield and at the statehouse in Trenton.
In addiiton, a "Buy Muhlenberg" movement was created by city Council candidate Olive Lynch, who last week convened a meeting of potential investors at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville. The investors met with two other members of Lynch's committee, Green and Ken Bateman, CEO of Somerset Medical Center, who had expressed interest in a potential partnership that would enable Muhlenberg to stay open.
"We needed to know that their interest was real," said Lynch, who thought that everyone at the meeting was excited by the possibilities and appeared to be on the same page. "We should be hearing back from them in the next few days."
Online story here.
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