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New Jersey: Rally Demands Muhlenberg Hospital Remain Open

By David Hungerford

People with grimly determined faces holding signs saying Save Muhlenberg

Trenton, NJ – 500 people traveled to Trenton, the state capital of New Jersey, April 5, to protest the threat to close Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield. Hospital closings are at crisis level in New Jersey and Muhlenberg, which has served Plainfield for 125 years, is only the latest to be threatened.

The struggle is led by the People’s Organization for Progress and has been largely based in the working class. In a significant broadening of the movement’s class basis, the Muhlenberg Doctors Association paid for the buses to travel to the rally.

The crowd marched from the drop-off point to the New Jersey Statehouse chanting, “What’s the word? Don’t close Muhlenberg,” “Save Muhlenberg hospital!” and other slogans. Passersby waved and smiled and drivers honked their car horns in support.

The Trenton municipal authorities had at first stalled on permits for the march, but in a concession to the power of the people a street lane was cleared for marchers on the approach blocks to the statehouse.

The rally heard Plainfield community activists, Muhlenberg workers and elected officials speak. To a roar of support from the crowd, People’s Organization for Progress Chairman Lawrence Hamm said, “There have been a lot of attempts to discourage us by reports that the closing of Muhlenberg is a done deal. Well this ain’t over until we say it’s over!”

Protest April 5 in Trenton, NJ to protest threatened closing of Muhlenberg Hospital..

He said the next demand of the people is to convene a public hearing to determine whether a certificate of need could be granted for the closing, as required by state law. Time and again in hospital closings, legal requirements have been bypassed. Organizing meetings are held every Monday night at Ducret School of Art in Plainfield, which donates the meeting space to the struggle.

Mr. Hamm then read the program of people’s demands from the statehouse steps, as follows:

“Demands of the people who oppose closing Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center. We demand:

1. Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center (MRMC) remain open as a full service ‘essential’ hospital.

2. An immediate halt to the transfer, termination, or shut down of any MRMC services, procedures, departments, units, equipment and other assets; an immediate halt to the transfer and lay-off of employees; an immediate halt to the diversion of insured and uninsured patients from MRMC to other facilities; and the maintenance of the ‘status quo’ at MRMC at least until the Certificate of Need application process has been completed and a decision is issued by the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services.

3. No further action be taken to close MRMC until a total community needs assessment is completed by an independent entity.

Protest April 5 in Trenton, NJ to protest threatened closing of Muhlenberg Hospital..

4. Solaris Health Systems, Inc. (Solaris), with regards to MRMC, adhere to the Certificate of Need application process as set forth by state law.

5. The restoration of all of services, procedures, departments, employees, units, equipment, and other assets that have been transferred from MRMC or shut down. They must be restored to insured and uninsured patients alike at MRMC.

6. Solaris provide a full report on the evaluation of alternatives it considered for MRMC to remain a full service hospital.

7. Solaris provide a complete accounting of the endowment funds it is holding in the name of Muhlenberg Hospital and the nursing school, and how these funds will be used in the event of MRMC closure.

8. Solaris provide a backup plan for Emergency Management in the event of a catastrophe if MRMC is closed.

9. Solaris provide a plan for eliminating loss of life and deterioration of healthcare delivery services to the elderly, the uninsured, the physically and mentally impaired and patients who lack transportation to other hospitals in the event of MRMC closure.”

Long shot of protest crowd. Sign says Muhlenberg is and essential hospital

Woman chanting and holding sign saying, "Muhlenberg is and essential hospital."

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