Nearly 400 people protested the planned sale of Buttonwood Hospital during an emotional public hearing at the Burlington County College's Pemberton campus on Tuesday.
A patient in a wheelchair, family members and friends of patients, employees, labor representatives, mental health advocates and health professionals begged Burlington County Freeholder Joe Donnelly - the only freeholder who bothered to attend - to reconsider the freeholder board's plans to hold an auction.
The 100-year-old Buttonwood Hospital, which has 170 nursing home beds and 30 psychiatric beds, mostly serves the indigent. More than 300 employees work at the Pemberton-based hospital and cook all of the "Meals on Wheels" food that is delivered to hundreds of home-bound senior citizens.
After receiving a consultant's report that said selling the building would end the financial drain on the county, the freeholders voted unanimously to hold an auction on Feb. 24. They also scheduled two public hearings, including the one on Tuesday night.