If UTMB, why not Shriners?

The recent news that the UTMB Hospital will remain in Galveston and is now rehiring laid off workers was great to hear not just for Galveston but for the larger region, which really needed the facilities. Now that this one is back, perhaps we can get similar news for the another Island hospital.

The national Shriners leadership may vote this week on a proposal to keep open the storm-damaged Galveston Shriners Hospital for Children and its world-renowned burn center.

The vote will come at the insistence of local Shriners, who ask for a financial review of the organization’s entire 22-hospital system to find places to cut or consolidate services “and preserve the most acclaimed burn care facility in the world.”

If the leadership fails to open the hospital, closed since Hurricane Ike damaged the first floor, local Shriners have vowed to take the issue to the national convention this summer.

“We are just trying to get our hospital reopened,” said Shriner Tommy Lambright, a member of the Galveston hospital’s governing board.

Shriners Galveston is the only burn hospital in the Houston region verified by the American Burn Association and the American College of Surgeons.

The failure to open the burn center puts the lives of children at risk, said Shriner Duncan McDowell of Beaumont. “How many children will die in the future if we fail to get it back in service?” McDowell asked.

Pete blogged about this back in January when the national Shriners leadership made the initial decision to close this hospital. The question is whether they may reconsider now that things have changed for the better in the area.

An important reason for closing the Shriners Galveston hospital was the initial decision by the University of Texas Regents to downsize the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Lambright said.

Shriners was staffed by UTMB doctors who devoted a percentage of their time to Shriners’ patients and were reimbursed by the Children’s Hospital. Herndon, chief of staff at Shriners Childrens Hospital, also heads UTMB’s Blocker Burn Unit.

Shriners and UTMB researchers often share multimillion dollar research grants.

Under pressure from the Texas Legislature, the regents reversed policy two weeks ago and committed to rebuilding UTMB. A letter from UTMB Provost Dr. Garland Anderson reassured the national Shriners leadership of UTMB’s continued support and pointed to research offices supplied to Shriners researchers at no cost.


Local Shriners sent their proposal last week to the national leadership and to all 1,163 Shriners delegates to the July 5 convention. A vote by the delegates would overturn a decision by the board.

Raoul Frevel Sr., a member of the national hospital board and a supporter of opening the Galveston hospital, will put the proposal forward for a vote during a three-day joint meeting of the two Shriner boards that begins today, Lambright said.

Repairs to the first floor of the hospital are also basically complete. I wish them the best in getting the initial decision overturned. There’s a website dedicated to saving the Galveston Shriners Hospital, but it doesn’t appear to have been updated recently. I guess if you want to express your support, you could still leave a comment there, or you could contact the national organization. If you happen to know someone who is a Shriner, that’s probably your best bet.

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