"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Shriners To Keep All Hospitals Open

Delegates at the Imperial Shrine session of Shriners International in San Antonio voted Monday to reopen the Galveston, Texas burn hospital, which has been closed since last September. The hospital had been damaged by Hurricane Ike. Shriners trustees had sought to keep the facility closed, and the University of Texas had filed a lawsuit against Shriners to reopen it.

According to the Houston Chronicle:

Convention delegates voted to keep open all of the 22 hospitals nationwide in the Shriners system and, in a separate decision, voted 756 to 482 to reopen the Shriners Hospital for Children-Galveston.

The leadership failed to convince delegates to close hospitals in Shreveport, La.; Spokane, Wash.; Greenville, S.C.; Erie, Pa.; and Springfield, Mass. Delegates will vote over the next two days on proposals to save the money-starved system without closing hospitals.

The vote followed months of lobbying by the 1,000-member El Mina Shrine, based in Galveston. Tommy Lambright, the Shriners Hospital for Children Galveston board member who led the lobbying effort, said every one of the 1,500 delegates to the convention was contacted by phone.

This in spite of catastrophic losses for the Shriners' foundation that funds the hospitals—in part, because of reduced contributions, but largely because of the plummeting stock market. The assembled Shriners were not swayed by pleas from the leadership for financial common sense. The trustees were directed three years ago to try to increase the $8.5 billion hospital endowment to $14 billion. When the stock market fell last year, however, the investments plunged to less than $5 billion.

Shriners' Hospitals CEO Ralph Semb was quoted as saying in April, “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."


  1. I joined the Shrine specifically to support the hospitals. In Massachusetts, we're agonizing about how to save the Springfield Hospital. I'm not sure how the Shrine can afford to keep all 22 hospitals with declining membership, plummeting stock investments, and the rising cost of medical care, but it would be a tragedy if philanthropy on this scale died out. If the Shrine decides that the hospitals are this central a focus to them, their cable-tow is going to be stretched pretty taut. I blogged about this on Monday. The Shrine has some pretty hard choices to make, especially after this new commitment to keeping all 22 hospitals open.

  2. The vote to no longer require Masonic membership just got that much closer.

  3. I am not a Shriner, yet I certainly hope they recover their finances to keep on going. I donate every year, and this has me considering joining to help out.

  4. Nobody wants to see any of the hospitals close, but I have to wonder if there's any particular plan or strategy behind this vote, other than a white-knuckled inclination to maintain the status quo.

  5. That is certainly the way it seems from the outside, anyway. Stubbornness is not always the best strategy. With these kind of financial losses, I expected them to react with something more than just emotion. I now believe they will never close a hospital and will never vote to allow non-Masons in, right up until the whole thing collapses under its own weight. The loss of $3.5 billion from the endowment isn't just some little market hiccup, that's the wrath of God.

  6. I think their decision to look at accepting medicare and insurance, is probably part of the longer term strategy if the operation is to stay open. I would also think they will have to partner with other medical institutions/universities, etc if they are going to survive.


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