Officials at the Florida-based organization say it is siphoning $1 million a day from its endowment to balance the budget for 22 hospitals in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Meanwhile, they say, that fund has fallen to $5 billion from $8 billion in less than a year because of the sputtering stock market and a charitable giving slump that has hurt philanthropies nationwide. The fund has been declining since 2001. The group will vote this summer on the closures.
“Unless we do something, the clock is ticking and within five to seven years we’ll probably be out of the hospital business and not have any hospitals,” Ralph Semb, chief executive officer of Shriners Hospitals for Children, told The Associated Press.
Widely known today for burn and orthopedic care for children, the Shriners Hospitals system opened in 1922 with a facility in Shreveport, La., that specialized in treating polio. By the 1960s, the group had hospitals nationwide and expanded its care to include spinal cord injury rehabilitation, cleft lip and palate care and medical research.
The article mentions that it may be difficult to get the votes necessary to close the hospitals. An attempt to close hospitals in 2003 was voted down, amid lobbying from patients, families and Shriners.