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Shriners Hospital in Tampa plans to end inpatient care, shed jobs

By changing to an outpatient facility, the hospital that made its mark treating children for free says it's responding to changes in the need for complex pediatric care.
The entrance to Shriners Hospital for Children in Tampa, located at 12502 USF Pine Dr. near the University of South Florida. The hospital, which opened in 1985, says it will change to an outpatient facility in August 2019.
Published Jan. 30

The Shriners Hospitals For Children — Tampa is moving away from hospital care and will focus on outpatient, same-day services beginning in August.

Its nonprofit parent organization, known for charitable work, is transitioning a number of its hospitals to this new focus. Tampa will become one of five that will no longer offer hospital care for children, according to Mel Bower, a spokesman for the organization. Shriners operates 20 hospitals across the country.

"As health care needs have changed, especially in pediatric care, we've found less of a need for hospital care," said Bower. "Our facility is seeing fewer patients who need this kind of complex care."

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Bower confirmed that some hospital employees will lose their jobs due to the change, but did not say how many. The hospital has yet to file layoff notices with the state.

"The more complex surgeries will be done at a different facility" from now on, Bower said. Shriners physicians will refer patients to other nearby hospitals, Bower said, but patients can also be transferred to Shriners hospitals in Shreveport, La., and Greensville, S.C.

"The decisions is based on health care patterns. Because Tampa is an extremely competitive marketplace, we're seeing less children," Bower said.

Last year, Shriners considered consolidating burn care at a number of its hospitals around the country, but ultimately chose not to. In 2009, the organization considered shuttering hospitals due to withering endowments.

Routine care, like prosthetic and wheelchair fittings, among other appointments, will continue at the Tampa hospital. There are no plans to renovate or alter the hospital building.

Shriners Hospitals for Children treated patients for free and did not accept insurance for many years. That changed in 2011, when the organization began accepting insurance, but still provides free care for uninsured children. Over the years they became famous for helping children with severe burns, clubbed feet and other debilitating injuries. They are funded by Shriners International, a Masonic fraternity open to men with nearly 200 chapters in the U.S. and other countries. The philanthropic organization is also based in Tampa.

The 60-bed, acute-care hospital in Tampa provides rehabilitation services and specialized care for children with orthopaedic conditions, and scoliosis and spine issues. The hospital opened on the University of South Florida campus in 1985, and has served more than 50,000 children with orthopaedic care.

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In 1989, physicians successfully separated the legs of a patient with sirenomelia, or "Mermaid Syndrome" in Tampa. The hospital's director of pediatric orthotic and prosthetic services established one of the country's first licensing boards for orthopaedic and prosthetic devices in Tampa. And in 2011, the Tampa hospital performed the nation's first Stanmore expandable endoprosthesis procedure, which involves removing a bone tumor and fitting the patient with a prosthesis to help the limb grow naturally.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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