Sunday, July 17, 2016

Losing Muhlenberg Hospital: A crime committed against Plainfield

On July 11th, 2016, Plainfield's mayor held a Town Hall to present the developers the city selected to convert the former Muhlenberg Hospital site into a medical mall and veterans and/or senior citizen housing. The city is cooperating with JFK as it dictates that nothing that competes with JFK will be permitted to occupy the space. If this "non-competition clause," attached to JFK's agreement to "let" the city of Plainfield use the land, is not an admission by JFK that they merged with Muhlenberg for the sole purpose of destroying their "competition," I don't know what is.
The city claims that reinstating a hospital is not financially feasible and hasn't issued a request for proposals to reinstate a hospital. Instead, community members are told, "If you know anyone who is willing to rebuild the hospital, tell us" and "our plan can't be perfect." If JFK isn't permitting competition, anyone interested in rebuilding our hospital wouldn't be permitted to.

History of the Closure of Muhlenberg Hospital
In 1997, JFK Medical Center, located in Edison, NJ (a predominantly White and Asian community with a median household income of $86,000) "merged" with Muhlenberg Regional Medical center, located in Plainfield, NJ (a predominantly Black and Latino community with a median household income of $52,000) to become “Solaris."

Muhlenberg was a self-sustaining hospital, founded in 1877 by parish leaders of Grace Church, named for the Reverend William Augustus Muhlenberg, an Episcopal priest and social activist. In 1997, it was well endowed and fully capable of serving most medical needs of everyone in the community and beyond.
JFK was a much younger hospital, founded in the 1960's in what was a predominantly white community, during the height of the civil rights movement in Plainfield. In 1997, JFK was struggling financially.
“Solaris” embarked on a mission to destroy Muhlenberg in order to enrich JFK, tricking much of the general public and officials into believing Muhlenberg was “no longer economically viable,” blaming the poor, accusing them of depleting the hospital’s resources.
Money making units were transferred or sold. The insured were guided to have their tests and elective procedures performed at JFK, while the uninsured remained at Muhlenberg. $50 million was spent on new equipment and programs. Muhlenberg’s profit making real estate outside of Plainfield was sold.
Inappropriate meetings were set up to inform Muhlenberg staff of the financial situation of the hospital. They were usually told the hospital either had a positive net income or a negative net income of approximately $1 million. Then, all of a sudden, they were notified that Muhlenberg was $16 million in debt.
The pretense of an attempt to sell the hospital also occurred. The process was controlled by JFK through a Realty Group named Caine Brothers. Potential buyers had to sign nondisclosure agreements and no firm price was ever set. There is no list of potential buyers available for public review.
In 2007, the decision was made to close the hospital. Amongst great protest, Muhlenberg closed on August 13, 2008, leaving many without adequate health care. JFK Health Systems claims ownership of the property, although they are not in possession of the deed. Most of the property has been completely neglected and is now filled with water and mold.
The mayor stated, when he was councilman for the 3rd ward, that "there is no reason why Muhlenberg cannot be reopened as a full-service, acute-care facility." His words were very deceptive. An emergency room (acute-care facility) still existed on the property, and his wording led many to believe he meant a hospital.
At a public meeting two years ago, the mayor proposed the site be developed for private medical offices and housing. He was met with great protest from the audience. Instead of responding to their reasonable protests, he went ahead and recruited developers to implement his plan.
The new emergency room, now separate from the moldy main building, opened in 2015 and is not full service.

The Need for Well Funded Quality Healthcare in Plainfield
There continues to be a great need for a full-service hospital in Plainfield.
The U.S. infant mortality rate ratio for non-Hispanic black relative to non-Hispanic white populations for the 3 years of 2008–2010 was 2.28. New Jersey had the highest rate ratio (3.4) for 2008–2010. Black women are less likely to receive ultrasounds and amniocenteses but are more likely to undergo riskier procedures such as cesarean sections.
JFK kept the money willed to Muhlenberg for maternity care, while patients of the only clinic in Plainfield were steered toward and accepted by Trinitas Hospital, which is 35 minutes away by car, and 70 minutes away by bus. The shuttle bus that carries patients between the Muhlenberg site and JFK takes 15 minutes.
Plainfield is number 9 on the top 10 cities in NJ with the highest HIV/AIDS cases. HIV patients especially need quality health care that is nearby and comprehensive.
The city has not yet made a broad effort to reach out to the community to test for HCV, which is ten times more prevalent than HIV, and to cure with the new safe and effective medicine that was approved by the FDA last month.
There is limited or no public transportation to the closest hospitals, which are all located in majority white communities with traffic courts en route to the hospitals filled with black people.

What Must Be Done

The City of Plainfield must hire a lawyer who will fight to gain control of the land.  Once Plainfield has gained control of the land, we will have no problem finding people to rebuild our hospital.  Don't believe the lie that is constantly being told: that Plainfield can't afford a hospital.  DEMAND THE RETURN OF OUR HOSPITAL - A HOSPITAL THAT IS EVEN BETTER THAN THE ONE THAT WAS TAKEN FROM US.

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