Shriners Dealing with Budget Issues

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

For generations, children with clubbed feet, severe burns and other debilitating injuries have been treated for free at Shriners hospitals around the nation. The closest one to Meridian is in Shreveport, La.

As the charity's endowment shrivels, the fraternal group faces a serious decision, whether to close six of its hospitals, including Shreveport.

The Galveston site has been closed since Hurricane Ike hit last September.

About 1,300 Shriners International members are meeting in San Antonio this week. They're considering permanently closing a quarter of the hospital system's facilities.

The Shriners, in an initial vote Monday, agreed to keep all 22 hospitals open. Benny Eggler of the Hamasa Temple Shrine in Meridian said more than two-thirds of the delegates voted to keep all hospitals open. No decision is final until the convention ends Thursday.

Ralph Semb with Shriners Hospitals for Children says if nothing changes, in seven years, they'll have gone through the endowment fund.

The group is considering allowing its hospitals to accept medical insurance.

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