GREENVILLE, S.C., June 8 (UPI) -- Shriners may have to close six U.S. hospitals or cut back on free care to close a 30 percent budget gap in 2009, the hospitals' president said.
The hospitals' $856 million 2009 budget faces a shortfall from deflated investments and higher than expected costs, President and Chief Executive Officer Ralph Semb told CNN in a story published Monday.
The Shriners board may have to ask the fraternity's membership to close hospitals in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Washington, Massachusetts and Texas, Semb said.
"If we do nothing, every hospital would have to cut 25 to 30 percent from their budgets, which in effect would shut about six of them anyway, because they couldn't give the services they've been giving," Semb told CNN.
Shriners Hospitals have treated hundreds of thousands of children free of charge since opening their first hospital in Shreveport, La., in 1922. Shriners specialize in orthopedic care and burn treatment.