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Monday, March 30, 2009

Shriner's in Trouble....

Shriners Hospital in
danger of closing
More than 200 employees could be out
of a job
Updated: Saturday, 28 Mar 2009, 8:52 PM EDT
Published : Saturday, 28 Mar 2009, 8:13 AM EDT

Jackie Ibanez
Michelle Misiaszek
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Every year 13,000 children walk through these doors at the Shriners Hospital to get the care they deserve. "Everybody can't afford the type of insurance where they can have their children obtain this kind of treatment," said Shriners volunteer James Kirst, Shriners.

The hospital that's been a lifeline for children since the 1920's may soon be forced to pull the plug. Twenty-two Shriners Hospitals throughout the country rely solely on the generosity of the public to pay their bills, but donations are dropping 1 million dollars a day.

Shriners has been suffering a budget deficit since 2001. Ralph Semb, chairman of the board told 22News Springfield is on the short list of 6 hospitals that may have to close just to keep the their mission of helping children alive. "When you see a child who has had a leg longer than the other or you see a child for the first time walk out of a chair...I can tell you our meeting was emotional. There was tears in all of our eyes when we had to say we have three options. None of them are what any of us want," said Semb.

Springfield Congressman Richard Neil grew up in the Hungry Hill neighborhood where the hospital's located, and spoke with 22News about the impending future of the local landmark. "I'm hoping the Shriners Hospital will be able to survive, I think there are some opportunities here to explore the role that the private payment might participate in, and strengthen the Shriners Hospital good for all of use in the region."

If the facility did shut down the children wouldn't be the only ones who would be affected; some 200 employees would be out of a job.

Semb assured 22News none of the patients would be left behind, they would receive unconditional care at other Shriners Hospitals across the country.

"The one thing I remember the most is I went into a physical therapy room where there was a child with no arms and no legs. Six years later that child came up to me and hugged me, pulled up my sleeve, and said, Mr. Semb you and I are going to cut the ribbon to the new auditorium in this hospital," reflected Semb.

The board of trustees will take a vote on the matter in July.