Past Imperial Potentate and now Shriners' Hospitals CEO Ralph Semb is quoted as saying, “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."
According to the article, the Shrine endowment fund has been dropping since 2001, but plunged in value from $8 billion to $5 billion in less than a year because of the stock market, as well as the nationwide drop in charitable contributions that has hurt most philanthropies. The Shrine is pulling $1 million a day from its endowment to balance the budget for the existing 22 hospitals.
Semb said this year’s operating budget for the hospital system is $856 million. The budget has risen by $100 million each of the past two years while donation levels remained static, he said.
The Imperial Session in San Antonio this summer will be asked to vote on the hospital closures. Such votes in the past have been contentious, and getting a 2/3 majority vote to do so may be well nigh impossible, in spite of the reality of the economic situation. Semb claims that to return to the kind of income from the endowment needed to sustain all of the facilities, its value must rise to $12 billion. An unlikely prospect in the best of times, which these are certainly not.
Meanwhile, sentiments continue to be divided evenly between those who think the Shrine would be better off eliminating its connection to Freemasonry, ending Masonic membership as a requirement, versus those who believe it would kill the organization.