Shriners and patients were celebrating the offical news that Shriners Hospital for children in Springfield will stay in business but under a new economic model. For WNPR, Karen Brown has this report.
"Let me first say, congratulations to all, we are open...(Applause)
After several months of uncertainty, Philip Thomas, Board President for the Springfield Shriners Hospital, appeared in his red Shriners hat and publicly confirmed what had already been announced at the national convention in Texas the week of July 6.
Despite a drastically shrunken endowment and rising healthcare costs, the Shriners Hospitals for Children, an organization that oversees 22 hospitals across the country, will not close any of them. Instead, they will start billing patients' insurance companies for the first time in the organization's history. Thomas:
"The Shrine system always focused on, we provide care to children at no charge, and the Shriners didn’t want to change that…but now the economy is such that we need to make some changes."
Another change in Springfield is partnering with nearby Baystate Hospital, a much larger facility, on some orthopedic procedures. But Boardmember, Allan Zippen, says the core mission of Shriners Hospital will not change.
"We all came away saying, we can take third party pay from those who have it, but we don’t abandon our mission to people who don’t have insurance. Nobody is gonna hand us cash for a deductible. That convinced us that that’s the way to go."
Several Shriners patients expressed their relief that the hospital will stay open. 20-year old Carrie Holmstrom lost part of her legs in a car accident and had been worried she wouldn't be able to continue her rehabiliation at Shriners.
"Oh my god, I think I cried happy tears….we were like, oh my god, I can still be with them. Practically threw a party."
Shriners Boardmembers did caution that, despite the reprieve, they'll need to ensure that the new business model works or the issue of closing the hospital could come up again.