07/08/09 — Local Shriners hopeful closings won't happen

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Local Shriners hopeful closings won't happen

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on July 8, 2009 1:43 PM

Confronted with serious financial difficulty due to the economic downturn, Shriners International faces this week the decision whether to alter the operations of the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Early news from San Antonio, the location of the 2009 Shriners Inter- national conference, was positive in favor of sustaining the hospitals. A statement released Tuesday reported that the conference attendees had "initially voted against closing any of the 22 Shriners Hospitals, including the one in Greenville, South Carolina."

However, there are more upcoming votes that could affect the future direction of the Shriners Hospitals, including the possibility of the hospitals beginning to accept third-party pay.

Shriners International, the umbrella organization of the many smaller individual Shrine Clubs, including the one in Wayne County, is facing serious financial difficulty this year. The Shriners Hospitals are funded through an endowment trust that is supplied through donations, wills, estates and gifts to the organization. The endowment lost millions in the stock market decline.

George Reacher, spokes-man for the Wayne County Shrine Club, said there are many people from across the United States involved in the process of deciding whether or not to close the hospitals.

"I don't know that they're going to close all of them, there's a lot of issues," he said.

Reacher and other members of the Wayne Shrine Club have been closely following the issue, but Reacher said he didn't feel comfortable discussing it as a final decision had not yet been made.

An ultimate decision on the status of the hospitals will not be officially determined until the convention concludes at noon Thursday. While the initial vote on the first day of the convention proposed to keep the hospitals open, a revote may be requested at any additional session thereafter.