The board of trustees proposed closing hospitals in Shreveport; Greenville; Erie, Pa.; Spokane, Wash.; Springfield, Mass.; and Galveston, Texas, eliminating a total of 225 beds. The hospitals were chosen mainly because of too many vacant beds, Semb said. The Galveston facility has been closed since Hurricane Ike last year.
Semb said he would like to see a compromise, perhaps giving the six facilities several months to find partnerships or other financial arrangements.
He said the Shriners are also considering allowing their hospitals to accept medical insurance payments and bill insurance providers for whatever treatment would normally be covered if a child's family agrees, but any additional treatments prescribed by Shriners doctors would still be done for free.
A group of staffers and patients from the Galveston hospital handed out pamphlets at the Shriners meeting, arguing that Semb and the trustees used Hurricane Ike as an excuse to keep the facility closed.
"I know the wonders they can do for kids," said Gordon Pranger, 35, who was treated at the hospital after suffering third-degree burns over his entire body at age 14. "For me, it's all family and home. It's personal."