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Stacey Vanek-Smith: You might know the Shriners as those guys who wear fezzes and drive funny little cars. But they also provide free health care to children through a couple dozen specialized hospitals. Financial troubles have hit the Shriners hard, and the group will decide today whether to close some of its facilities. Alisa Roth reports.
Alisa Roth: The Shriners hospitals only treat a handful of problems, like severe burns. They pay for the treatment with donations and an endowment. But Shriners membership is falling. They’re not raising as much money as they used to, and the stock market’s shrunk the endowment.
Mark Wietecha tracks health care for the consultants Kurt Salmon Associates. He says Shriners hospitals are small. Some have as few as 10 beds. It just costs too much to equip them with the latest technology and to staff them with specially trained workers.
Mark Wietecha: The scale issue has become important in pediatric medicine and we’ve seen children’s hospitals tending to get a little bit larger.
No matter what happens today, Shriners hospitals probably won’t disappear completely. Many are already affiliated with larger institutions, and Wietecha says Shriners hospitals will likely just end up getting absorbed by them in the future.
In New York, I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.