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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Springfield Shriners

Springfield Shriners Hospital May Close

Posted: March 27, 2009 04:54 PM EDT

Updated: March 28, 2009 12:14 AM EDT

By: Elizabeth Corridan

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (abc40) -- The Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield could be closing. There are 22 hospitals in the nationwide Shriners network. The Board of Trustees is considering closing six of them to help cut $200 million for the annual budget.

"As we look at the system and we look at if we're going to survive and keep Shriners Hospitals active and continue to help children, we have to retrofit the system," said Ralph Semb, chairman of the Board of Trustees, Friday.

Employees at Shriners Hospital for Children on Carew Street in Springfield were called to a meeting at 1:00 p.m. Friday. They were told the hospital is one of the six under consideration for closing. Semb says the board felt obligated to alert employees in advance.

Founded in 1925, the Springfield facility specializes in orthopaedic pediatric treatment. All care is provided free of charge.

Closures are a last resort. The board is considering all options including massive budget cuts and accepting third party pay. Members could also vote to do nothing and continue operating at a deficit. Semb says that course of action would have a dramatic impact on the entire network. Within 8 years all 22 hospitals would be in jeopardy of closing.

For patients who have received years of treatment at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield, the news of an impending closure is devastating. Christian Lalli was 3 months old when he first went for a consultation. Other doctors had told his parents he would never walk. The doctors at Shriners disagreed. After numerous operations, several pairs of custom-fit braces and orthopaedic equipment Christian could walk. He says without the hospital and its staff, he would never have gone to high school, never graduated college and never been able to walk. He is disheartened to hear the legacy of care could be coming to an end. "It just makes me sad because it's such a big part of my life," Lalli said.

A formal vote on the closures is schedule for July