Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Letter: How the governor can really help

Sunday's Star-Ledger (12/07/2008) ran the following letter from the Muhlenberg Independents (which they signed only with Jim Colvin's name and as pastor of the United Church of Christ-Congregational. The letter did not appear in the online edition.

Below is the full text of the original letter, as submitted by Jim, Sarah, Deborah and Nancy.
How the governor can really help

Gov. Corzine apparently decided to visit our community of Plainfield on November 18th but did not bother to tell anyone. Did he, or his buddy, Assemblyman Jerry Green, also in the picture, simply phone the newspapers for a photo op in an attempt to make it appear as though the governor actually cares about poor people? Why were no Plainfield Schools, churches, clergy or civic groups invited to this most unusual appearance of the governor, who has steadfastly avoided Plainfield ever since he decided to close Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center?

The picture shows the governor packing food baskets, but not actually interacting with any hungry people. It is odd that Gov. Corzine would be interested in the needy ones of Plainfield, since he was good enough to close our hospital and eliminate 1100 jobs. His action indeed created many more hungry and unemployed people here and in the region.

There is no way to estimate the suffering that he has wrought here. The Governor showing up in a a community pretending to care about the well-being of the people is quite cavalier. The "let them eat cake" attitude shows forth in the photo.

Governor, if you really intend to help the needy in Plainfield, then re-open the hospital as an acute care facility and restore 1100 jobs. In the meantime, please refrain from trying to appear as though you care.

The Muhlenberg Independents,
Rev. James Colvin
Rev. Sarah Colvin
Deborah Dowe
Nancy Piwowar

Monday, November 10, 2008

Plainfield: 'Buy Muhlenberg' Coalition protests Obama's consideration of Corzine

One of many signs on Watchung Avenue in Plainfield
protesting the Muhlenberg closure.

Members of the 'Buy Muhlenberg' Coalition have addressed an open letter to President-elect Barack Obama's transition team regarding the consideration of New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine as a potential Treasury Secretary. Here is the letter in its entirety --
An Open Letter to the Obama Transition Team: Vetting Jon Corzine

We speak for thousands of people in the twelve municipalities covering parts of three counties served by Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, located in Plainfield, New Jersey: Jon Corzine is unqualified to serve in any key financial position in the Obama administration. He has demonstrated time and again a Wall Street attitude that ignores the needs of Main Street. Our experience of his values and ways of operating relates to the way he closed a vital regional medical center with nothing to replace it.

Here is roughly how it went from our perspective:

He appointed a commission on the “rationalization of healthcare” in New Jersey—their job was to develop criteria for determining which hospitals should remain open and which should be closed, since there has been a healthcare financial crisis in our state for years which somewhat mirrors the rest of the nation

Claiming he was using these criteria, Gov. Corzine has overseen the closing of eleven hospitals across the state; in some instances there may have been an overlap of services, but in others there were not. Nine are in urban areas.

Instead of following the recommendations of his commission, which stated that financially troubled but essential hospitals should be kept open, the Governor simply let the free market determine the fate of hospitals that larger hospital systems wanted to discharge.

In January 2008, he appointed Heather Howard, a lawyer, to be Commissioner of Health and Human Services (formerly those in this office were health care professionals). Ms Howard followed the free market principles to a “T” in stating that Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, located in an urban center, should be allowed to go away, so that its sister facility in the Solaris Health System, JFK Hospital in Edison (a wealthier suburban community) could flourish.

To us this is a callous Wall Street mentality emblematic of the administration now vacating the White House. This attitude seems very inconsistent with that of President-Elect Obama.

Another, far murkier angle has been Corzine’s backroom political maneuvering that has presented the public with an opaque face. Whenever we community leaders approached elected officials, all Democrats, from state assembly and senate to U.S. Representatives and Senators, we were met with complete indifference. (Though most of us probably vote Democratic, we were not displeased that one Democrat aspiring to a House seat was not elected, in part because of her indifference to our pleas to help save Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center.) We cannot prove Jon Corzine’s involvement, but suffice it to say that Sen. Barbara Buono of Middlesex County is the head of the Senate Budget Committee, and her husband, Dr. Martin Gizzi, is a highly paid [administrator] with Solaris who has never liked Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center.

Despite extensive research done by our team of community activists, neither the Governor nor his Health Commissioner looked into our many allegations of misdoings on the part of Solaris, which, it seems pretty clear, systematically dismantled all of MRMC’s money-making components and then claimed that charity care was the reason they needed to close the hospital.

It turns out that Solaris’ motivation has a Corzine/Wall Street connection. The state has created a Health Care Facilities Financing Authority which grants hospital systems CLOSING some of their hospitals access to low cost bonds for capital development and restructuring of debt. One of the primary issuers of these bonds is Goldman Sachs, Jon Corzine’s former employer. Thus Solaris was recently granted a $169M bond for just these purposes. Whether the bond can actually be sold in this weak market is another question.

Bottom line: hiring Jon Corzine simply puts Wall Street at the heart of a new administration claiming to be different from the last one.

We will be thrilled to supply details to anyone on the Obama Transition Team willing to listen and safeguard the integrity of the new administration.

Rev. James Colvin, Pastor
United Church of Christ
Member of Buy Muhlenberg Coalition
Plainfield, New Jersey

Those interested in the 'Buy Muhlenberg' Coalition can get more information by calling Rev. Colvin at (908) 755-8658.

-- Dan Damon

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Four buyers bid on Old Bridge hospital

Four unnamed buyers have stepped forward with offers to purchase Raritan Bay MC's Old Bridge hospital, according to today's Star-Ledger.

The move would shore up Raritan Bay's Perth Amboy hospital, which is in fiscal straits owing to the state's failure to adequately reimburse charity care.

Wanna bet the potential buyers' names will have a familiar sound when they become known?

Read the full story here: "Potential buyer found for Old Bridge hospital".

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Commissioner Howard denies appeal over Muhlenberg closure

Commissioner Heather Howard denied the requests of Plainfield and POP to reconsider the decision to grant Solaris a CoN for closure of Muhlenberg, according to today's Courier News.

This sets the stage for the appeal to move to the courts, if the Green/Robinson-Briggs team doesn't lose its nerve.

Read the full story here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

No word on Robinson-Briggs acceptance of Muhlenberg oversight yet

Mayor Robinson-Briggs was to get back to Commissioner Heather Howard by the end of the week (September 26th), answering the Commissioner's questions about the proposed Community Advisory Group (CAG) and whether she intended to take up the role of monitor. (See more HERE.)

As of Saturday, no word has been given of the Mayor's reponse, and there is no information available on the city's website.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Robinson-Briggs may take on managing Muhlenberg monitor

Commissioner Heather Howard is proposing that responsibility for the oversight group outlined in her conditions for Solaris' closure of Muhlenberg be handed over to the office of Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, according to a report in Tuesday's Courier.

Howard asked for specifics of the group's makeup and meeting schedules, which Mayor Robinson-Briggs said would be forthcoming by the end of the week.

The Mayor intends to bring the matter up with the Council -- which she refers to as 'our partners in this' -- when it meets in a special session she has called for Wednesday to present the Administration's proposed FY2009 budget.

Read the full story here: "Mayor's office may take on managing advisory group in Muhlenberg closure".

Report: As economy tanks, consumers cut health spending

The Wall Street Journal reports that a study finds many are cutting back on health care as the economy sours.

Income strictures, combined with higher copays, are leading many to forego doctor's visits, testing and even how often they fill their prescriptions.

For the first time in at least a decade, year-over-year spending dropped -- in the second quarter by nearly 2%.

Read the full story here: "Consumers Cut Health Spending, As Economic Downturn Takes Toll".