Sunday, April 22, 2018
Health

Tampa Shriners hospital cuts staff, considers expansion of rehabilitative care

TAMPA — Tampa's Shriners Hospital for Children has laid off 20 people and reduced the hours of about a dozen others in a move administrators say will save the hospital about $2.5 million next year.

The cuts last week came from across the hospital, which previously employed the equivalent of 170 full-time people, and they included administration and staff. Only one physician was laid off and no surgeons were cut, said regional hospital administrator David Ferrell.

The Shriners pediatric care network includes 22 hospitals nationwide, in Canada and in Mexico, the first built 90 years ago when polio was rampant. The hospitals have since specialized in orthopedic and burn care. They take in children without insurance.

For most of its history, Shriners hospitals were completely funded by charity and interest on stocks, but times changed.

Medicine and technology costs increased. A trend toward outpatient care hurt the hospitals, which had focused on long-term care. A poor stock market took a chunk out of the Shriners Hospitals' endowment.

Two years ago, Shriners hospitals started accepting insurance and Medicaid. That move, along with a focus on fiscal efficiency, is helping the system get through tough times.

The changes have been "quite a challenge," Ferrell said, adding that laying people off is always unpleasant. But he pointed to Shriners' mission: The hospitals still accept children without insurance.

Tampa's 60-bed hospital will have a $13 million operating budget next year.

Ferrell says the cuts at Tampa's location will not affect patient care. Administrators expect to admit the same number of patients and provide the same services.

In fact, they hope to expand.

Ferrell says he has met with Tampa Bay area hospitals, looking for gaps in care that Shriners could fill. One answer: rehabilitative care.

Because Shriners has a history of inpatient care, its Tampa hospital could take in children who have been treated for acute issues and just need a little more recovery time before they go home, Ferrell said.

That could include a child receiving intravenous fluids or one recovering from a head injury, he said.

"We don't look to be profitable hospitals," Ferrell said. "That's not our mission. But if we can help reduce the drain on our endowment, then hopefully it can grow in more stable times."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

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