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Greenville Shriners Hospital may close

The Shriners Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina is on a short list for closure because of budget problems.  Since all of the nation's 22 Shriners Hospitals treat children for free they rely heavily on an endowment. And that fund has lost $3.5 billion dollars in the tanking stock market. Shriners Hospitals CEO Ralph Semb says closing hospitals is the best way to stay afloat. "You know, we've known that for the last seven years that we've been operating in the red," says Semb. "And I've continued in my messages to the representatives who vote on these things saying 'Fellas, we can't afford 22 hospitals.'"

Greenville is on the list of six hospitals recommended for closure because Semb says it's not treating enough patients. The chairman of the Greenville Hospital's board, Rod Brown, disagrees, "I mean it was only eight or nine years ago they were telling us to get our patients loads down because we were keeping kids in the hospital too long. Now we're being punished because we followed that demand and we're not keeping kids long."

If Greenville closes, its patients - most of whom are children with cerebral palsy or serious spine issues - would have to go to Kentucky or Florida. Rather than close the Greenville Hospital, Brown says Shriners needs to raise more money, increase its membership ranks and consider charging for treatment when a patient has insurance.

The final decision on closing hospitals will be made by a vote at the Shriners annual meeting in July.