Future of Cincinnati Shriners Hospital uncertain as pediatric burns decrease

CINCINNATI -- The Shriners have had a dedicated burn hospital in Cincinnati for 50 years.

The organization can't say if that standalone hospital will be around for another decade, though that's for a good reason.

Fewer children suffer severe burns these days than they did last century. Mel Bower, Shriners' chief communications officer at its Florida headquarters, said doctors also are able to do more outpatient care -- which means less time kids have to spend in a hospital.

So, Bower said, the Shriners organization is looking at different ways it can keep helping children in the Tri-State. Whether that means Shriners would become part of a larger hospital group, Bower can't yet say: The organization is still looking at its options, and there's no timeline on a decision.

"What's known is that we're committed to serving children, and children in the region," Bower said.

The Shriners hospital opened in 1968 as Shriners Burns Institute. For four years before that, Shriners operated a pediatric burn unit out of Cincinnati General Hospital.

The Shriners organization operates 22 medical facilities around the United States, but Cincinnati's is just one of a few that's dedicated to pediatric burn care. The others are in Boston, Galveston and Sacramento.

"We are committed to staying in this region, as committed as we have ever been," Bower said.

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