SHRINERS HOSPITAL: Few Takers for Free, Specialty Care
The new Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento, which provides free specialty medical care, "is running at one-third its capacity," the Sacramento Bee reports. Shriners Administrator Margaret Bryan said that while the hospital has served more children than expected in its two years of operation, "the fact of the matter is that there remains a large community of unserved kids." According to Bryan's analysis of hospital-patient discharge data for Northern California, Shriners is serving only 15% to 20% of the children in the region who could benefit. Located on the UC-Davis Medical Center campus, the 80-bed facility with a $26 million annual budget needs "more outreach and self-promotion" to serve children with serious burns, spinal cord injuries and orthopedic problems, the Bee reports, as "many longtime providers in the region don't know how to access the free and renowned specialty services Shriners provides."
What's more, the "hospital may be a victim of its own charitable practices," which do not normally include "formal financial contracts" with medical groups and health plans that refer patients to hospitals. And Shriners' ties to UC-Davis may lead some doctors to wrongly believe they cannot refer patients there, noted Dr. Gregory Janos of the Sutter Medical Center. Shriners is stepping up marketing plans to educate doctors, hospitals and HMOs that it will accept a referral from anyone. Still, many insurers may be hesitant to interfere in referrals processes. "On the one hand, you would think if somebody is offering high quality care at no cost, we might be very interested in that. But I'm not sure what other hospitals would feel if they felt they were competing against a hospital that wasn't charging anybody," said Tom Gwynn, Blue Shield's vice president for public affairs (Griffith, 3/10).