The future of Shriners Hospital for Children on the Texas island of Galveston became more uncertain last week as the Tampa, Fla.-based Shriners system suspended reconstruction on its facility that was damaged by Hurricane Ike last September.
Shriners suspends projects
System readjusts after huge hit to endowment
With a staggering $3 billion hit to its endowment fund, Shriners said it stopped reconstruction efforts on its Galveston facility, for which it has already spent about $3.5 million on repairs. In St. Louis, Shriners halted plans for a new hospital, preferring to continue treating patients at its existing facility. And in Los Angeles, the system hired an architecture firm to evaluate what it will require for its current facility to meet the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Developments earthquake standards by 2013, as opposed to building a new facility, said Ralph Semb, president and chief executive officer for the childrens healthcare system.
According to Semb, the systems endowment fund had once totaled a little more than $8 billion, and the system relies on interest from that endowment to operate its 22 hospitals, especially because it does not accept any federal funding or insurance. He estimates it costs between $2.6 million and $2.7 million per day to manage all of its hospitals, which treat children up to the age of 18 with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lips and palates regardless of financial need.
Because Shriners really places their trust in their endowment fund, all of us have to look critically at our future, Semb said.
Shriners 30-bed Galveston facility, which specialized in treating burn victims, had a staff of about 300, all of whom have continued to be paid and receive benefits through a disaster fund that other Shriners employees established, Semb said. Employees will continue to be paid until March 31.
The nearby University of Texas Medical Branch at Galvestons Blocker Burn Unit has the capability to treat children with minor burns, said Raul Reyes, a spokesman for UTMB. For now, children on the island who suffer severe burns will be transferred to Houston-area hospitals, he said.
UTMB is also feeling the effects of Ike. According to Reyes, the main hospital re-opened on Jan. 5 and has a daily patient census of about 200, down from 500 before the storm. UTMB had announced it would cut up to 3,800 jobs (Nov. 17, 2008, p. 12). But months later, the workforce picture looks better. Reyes said the system has laid off about 2,450 workers, and that there are no major layoffs being considered or planned.
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