Author Archive: DottieG

State hearing on Muhlenberg Tuesday

[This is the kind of action we should all be taking as progressives — not only the street protests but also attending meetings like this and cooperating with your fellow community activists.  Blogs are great, but real world activism is what gets results — promoted by huntsu]

The date, time and place have been set for the public hearing on the application to close Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in Plainfield. The state board which makes “recommendations” to NJ health commissioner Heather Howard will hear testimony on Tuesday, May 6, from 6 to 8 pm in the Plainfield High School Auditorium at 950 Park Avenue.

I put “recommendations” in quotes because Howard has already told the State Senate Budget Committee that Muhlenberg will have to be closed to “strengthen” JFK hospital in Edison–one of the many facilities (non-profit and for-profit) owned by parent corporation Solaris Health Systems, which acquired Muhlenberg in 1997.  

Masses of citizens have signed up to testify…the Plainfield Board of Education has rescheduled its meeting so as not to conflict with the hearing…elected officials from Plainfield and many other area communities will speak…and we hope to fill the 1500-seat auditorium.

But we’ll need the help of the Blue Jersey community to do it!

Solaris says they plan to keep Muhlenberg’s emergency room open as a JFK “satellite,” although they have acknowledged that since their announcement that Muhlenberg will close June 15, many seeking care have already shifted to other facilities.  They have assumed that the closing is a “done deal” and that the hearing is simply pro forma–as it may very well be, given Howard’s comments and the overall crisis in health care funding.

But we in Plainfield and the surrounding area are doing everything we can to keep Muhlenberg open as a full-service acute-care facility.  Established more than 100 years ago, Muhlenberg serves a population of more than 150,000 in three counties–Union, Middlesex, and Somerset–and has among the highest ratings in the state and nation for its quality of patient care.  (In fact, its ratings are better than JFK’s.)  Moreover, it is the primary health care facility for Plainfield’s nearly 50,000 residents and the city’s largest employer, with more than 1,000 staff members.  Closing Muhlenberg would be a devastating blow to Plainfield’s economy!

We have the support of Plainfield’s Chamber of Commerce as well as area clergy, local elected officials, legislators, community organizations, county freeholders, and hundreds of Plainfield area residents. All understand that closing Muhlenberg would make the difference between life and death for hundreds of people!

The People’s Organization for Progress has taken the lead in organizing our efforts, which have included rallies, a demonstration in Trenton, and prayer vigils, as well as substantial outreach to Plainfield and the surrounding communities.  Hundreds of people have gotten involved–including Shaun O’Hara of the Giants, who spoke at our most recent rally April 29th.

Please help us fill the Plainfield High School auditorium on Tuesday, May 6th–we need to show state officials that we’re serious about keeping our hospital open!  

NY Giants stars join Save Muhlenberg campaign

New York Giants team captain Shaun O’Hara and other members of the Superbowl champs will headline a Pep Rally to Save Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center at 6 pm on Tuesday, April 29 at Plainfield’s Hub Stein Field on Randolph Road and Woodland Avenue across from the hospital.

The rally will also feature Gospel, hip-hop, traditional, and Latin music, as well as appearances by elected officials and community leaders involved in the Save Muhlenberg campaign.  The hospital’s parent corporation, Solaris Health Systems, wants to close Muhlenberg in June so as to “save” their other facility, JFK Medical Center, in Edison.  Muhlenberg–a full-service acute care hospital with top ratings, serves residents of three counties–Union, Middlesex, and Somerset–and was established more than a century ago as a non-profit community hospital, but Solaris says it’s losing too much money in “charity care” funding and must be sacrificed to “save” JFK.  

The state board whose responsibility it is to review proposed hospital closings will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, May 6, from 6 to 8 pm, in the Plainfield High School auditorium (950 Park Avenue).

The Save Muhlenberg campaign is the work of a tri-county coalition of organizations including the People’s Organization for Progress (POP), the Concerned Urban Clergy of the greater Plainfield area, elected officials, and business and community leaders in the three counties.  POP has organized rallies both in Plainfield and in Trenton, and plans to lobby the legislature in the coming months  for increased state aid to this essential urban hospital.

Solaris officials appeared last week before the Plainfield City Council.  CEO John McGee, whose annual salary exceeds $600,000, told City officials that Solaris plans to keep Muhlenberg’s emergency room open as a “JFK satellite” for an indefinite period to “stabilize” patients before having them sent to other hospitals such as Somerset (in Somerville), Overlook (in Summit) and St. Peter’s (in New Brunswick)–and of course to JFK.  He admitted that JFK is not capable of serving the entire Muhlenberg community (35,000 patients last year).

This is the Plainfield community’s “Katrina” moment, and it is truly an emergency! If you’re anywhere near Plainfield, you know how important our Medical Center is to the entire area.  Ambulances come to Muhlenberg from Watchung, Warren, North Plainfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Westfield, Cranford, Dunellen, Green Brook, Piscataway, South Plainfield, and even parts of Edison.  Unlike some other urban areas, we have no other full-service hospitals within the immediate vicinity that can perform emergency procedures such as angioplasty or handle victims of traffic accidents on busy highways such as Route 22 and Interstate 78.  

If Muhlenberg is forced to close, the entire area will pay the price.  Come out and support our efforts…attend the Pep Rally and/or the May 6 hearing…write your elected officials and newspapers…and please, pay attention–the life you save may be your own!

For more information feel free to contact me at my new email address:  dottiegutenkauf@gmail.com.

 

Fighting to save Muhlenberg

The greater Plainfield community has come together in an effort to keep Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center from being closed.  The parent company, Solaris Health Systems, has decided to close it and transfer its considerable assets to JFK Hospital in Edison.  Muhlenberg’s 1000-member staff has received notice that the hospital may close as early as mid-June.  The hospital is the biggest employer in Plainfield and the effect of closing it will be devastating.  Many of us find the situation reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina, since Plainfield is a largely minority community with a substantial population of working people, many of them uninsured.  

Muhlenberg, which has served central NJ for more than 100 years, is a first-rate full-service medical center, with 35,000 emergency room visits each year.  Solaris says it will keep the ER open and transfer patients elsewhere for treatment if needed.  This amounts to a cruel and inhumane imposition on the residents of three counties–Union, Middlesex, and Somerset–who rely on Muhlenberg for hospital services.  

Lives are on the line–it’s all very well to talk about using the ER to “stabilize” individuals having heart attacks or strokes–but sending them somewhere else for actual treatment puts them at great risk. Yesterday coming back from a conference in Newark on Route 78 I saw a “hospital” sign just before the Plainfield exit.  On the way from Route 78 to Plainfield I counted five other such signs.  So if Muhlenberg is closed, and you’re on Route 78 and have stroke or heart attack symptoms, you may not make it–in such cases, time is essential.

The People’s Organization for Progress and the Concerned Urban Clergy of the greater Plainfield area are sponsoring a one-hour prayer vigil on Saturday, April 19, from noon to 1 pm, on the corner of Park Avenue and Randolph Road in Plainfield–across the street from the hospital.  Whether or not you think prayer is effective, it’s important that you show your support for our community’s efforts to keep Muhlenberg from closing.  We’ve rallied in Plainfield and in Trenton, and we’ll be in Trenton lobbying.  We’re doing everything else we can–and prayer can’t hurt!

The state Heath & Senior Services Commissioner, Heather Howard, has already gone on record as saying Muhlenberg will be close to “save” JFK–and Solaris’ application for permission to close isn’t complete yet.  It’s an outrage!

For updates on the situation, email me at my new address:  dottiegutenkauf@gmail.com

Rally for Muhlenberg tomorrow!

Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center serves parts of three counties–Union, Middlesex, and Somerset.  It is a full-service highly rated hospital–and other places that don’t want to care for the uninsured send them to Muhlenberg.

Now, the parent company (Solaris Health Systems) wants to shut it down–and the governor plans to cut “charity care.”

The Plainfield area can’t afford to lose its medical center!  The People’s Organization for Progress has been joined by an increasing community coalition, including doctors and other medical staff, in actions to prevent the closing of our hospital.

Please join us Saturday, April 5, at 12 noon on the State House steps in Trenton for a Save Muhlenberg rally.  We’ve got to show them we’re serious!

Want more info? Call me: 908-668-1149.

Docs pitch in to save Muhlenberg!

The People’s Organization for Progress (POP) and its allies in the Save Muhlenberg Project are rallying Saturday, April 5, at 12 noon on the State House steps to protest the planned closing of Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center by its owner, Solaris Health Systems.  

Ten buses will leave Plainfield at 10 am that day.  The doctors and medical staff at Muhlenberg have donated funds to pay for the buses–so those traveling to Trenton will ride free.  And people will be coming by car from all over the state.

There are two news stories today about yesterday’s events.  The Courier News (Gannett Corp.) has posted an unfortunately incomplete and somewhat inaccurate story (http://www.c-n.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080402/NEWS/804020323).  The Star-Ledger’s piece today focuses on the community rally  (http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/union/index.ssf?/base/news-3/120711474777830.xml&coll=1).

Muhlenberg is the only full-service medical center in the area, which includes parts of Union, Middlesex, and Somerset Counties–the closest hospitals are many miles away.  It has won national recognition for its high quality of care.  It is number 1 in NJ for “Door to Balloon Time” for emergency angioplasty, and among the top 10% in the nation.

Come on out on Saturday, Blue Jersey, and join the struggle–the life you save may be your own!  To quote Winston Churchill, “We fight for ourselves, but not only for ourselves.”  This is an issue that affects all of us.

Want more info?  Contact me at DGutenkauf@aol.com or call me at 908-668-1149.

Plainfield fights to save its hospital

[Promoted by huntsu, saying that this is not just about the Plainfield area but about our state and nation’s attitudes about healthcare]

Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center doesn’t just serve Plainfeld–it serves a broad geographic area and is miles away from its nearest counterpart.  It is a full-service hospital with up-to-date facilities and a wonderful professional staff.

And the corporation that owns it wants to shut it down.

About ten years ago it was “acquired” by Solaris Health Systems, which also owns JFK Hospital in Edison.  Since then, Solaris has done what big corporations do to the smaller corporations they acquire–they siphon all the profitable operations out of them, and then put the rest up for sale–deficit and all.  

That’s exactly what’s been happening.  Several of Muhlenberg’s most valuable units have been moved to JFK.  A good example is the pediatric unit–sick children without insurance, covered by the CHIP program, are sent to JFK, but their uninsured parents must rely on Muhlenberg’s “charity care.”  

Of course, Solaris hasn’t found a buyer they’re willing to sell to–so now they’ve applied to the state for permission to close.  They say they’ll keep the emergency room and a few other limited facilities open–but there’s no guarantee how long that will last.  In any case, Muhlenberg is an essential and highly rated comprehensive hospital, and the area cannot afford to lose it.

The Plainfield community is fighting back, and has been joined by others, including members of the surrounding areas served by Muhlenberg as well as concerned citizens from all over the state. The People’s Organization for Progress and its local allies are leading the struggle. On March 1, about 300 people marched and chanted outside the hospital. Two weeks later, the number participating was nearly 1000.  Letters and petitions are being sent to politicans and newspapers.  Signs saying “Save Muhlenberg” are in storefronts and windows all over town.

And on Saturday, April 5, we are taking our protest to Trenton, where we will rally at 12 noon on the steps of the State House.   Buses will be leaving the parking lot at Park Avenue and Randolph Road in Plainfield at 10 am.  Carpooling is encouraged–and people can meet us there!  Participants include local clergy, members of the business community, educators, medical professionals, parents, family members, and community leaders from the tri-county area served by the Medical Center.  And I hope the Blue Jersey community will be there–the availability of quality health care is a priority for all of us.

JOIN US–MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

Contact Stuart (908-731-1518) or Mary (732-968-9226) or Dottie (908-668-1149) to get involved.

AFL-CIO Congressional ratings

The AFL-CIO has published their annual ratings of the voting records of members of Congress on the 2007 issues they considered most important to union members.  Here are links to NJ Congressmen and the three Senators running for President:

All NJ members of the House and Senate:

http://www.aflcio.org/issues/l…

Clinton’s record (she was absent for 5 of these):

http://www.aflcio.org/cgi-bin/…

Obama’s record (he was absent for 7 of these):

http://www.aflcio.org/cgi-bin/…

McCain’s record (perfect attendance, lousy record):

http://www.aflcio.org/cgi-bin/…  

More food for thought

From The Nation online today:  http://www.thenation.com/doc/2…

Don’t forget that the magazine is supporting Obama.

See also the front-page piece in today’s NY Times about what to expect in the summer & fall campaign (sorry I don’t have a link).  The Repugs will pull out all the stops and invent some more.  If you think it’s been nasty so far, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet–just wait till they’re openly playing from Karl Rove’s cheatbook.