Shriners International must approve Erie hospital's plansErie Shriners Hospital for Children has a plan to reduce its costs and continue treating children from throughout the Great Lakes region.
It's just taking a lot longer than expected to implement that plan.
"Shriners International has asked us and all other Shriners hospitals to submit our plans for review," Erie Shriners Administrator Charles Walczak said. "Those plans were due (Friday). ... We anticipate a decision from them within the next few months."
Erie Shriners announced in November 2009 that it planned to move all inpatient surgeries to UPMC Hamot, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and Shriners Hospital for Children -- Philadelphia.
The hospital, 1645 W. Eighth St., would become an ambulatory surgery center. Its inpatient area would be converted into pediatric specialty clinics. Erie Shriners would continue to oversee outpatient surgeries and clinics, rehabilitation and the motion-analysis lab.
Nearly a year and a half later, Erie Shriners still performs most of its own inpatient surgeries, and the pediatric specialty clinics remain in the planning stages.
"Until we get a final decision from Shriners International, we are continuing with the status quo," Walczak said. "Some of our inpatient surgeries are being done at Hamot, Children's and in Philadelphia, while some are done here."
A call to Shriners International in Tampa, Fla., was not immediately returned Friday.
Erie Shriners came up with its plan as a way to reduce costs after Shriners International delegates considered closing six of its hospitals, including Erie, in 2009.
The delegates chose not to close any Shriners hospitals but encouraged all of them to partner with other area hospitals.
"In terms of the general concept, there are no changes in the plan we submitted from what we announced" in 2009, Walczak said. "Some details, such as what certain venues will look like, have changed."
The pediatric specialty clinics would be staffed by Children's Hospital and run by Allied Pediatric Health, a nonprofit organization created by Erie Shriners and a dozen other health-care organizations.
Clinics would focus on pediatric specialties not seen in Erie, such as gastroenterologists, pulmonologists, dermatologists, neurologists and endocrinologists.
"These clinics will not compete with local pediatric services," Erie Shriners spokesman Bob Howden said. "These will fill gaps and provide services families otherwise must travel out of town to get."
Erie Shriners still plans to bill health insurers for its services beginning in September. The hospital provides its services for free, though it allows Hamot and Children's Hospital to bill for treatments at their facilities.
"We will still pay out-of-pocket costs and all costs for families without health insurance," Walczak said.
DAVID BRUCE can be reached at 870-1736 or by e-mail.