A much-needed, new Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children could be built in Salt Lake City. In fact, negotiations are under way with the University of Utah Medical School that may lead to relocating a new unit on the U. campus.
If Sen. Jake Garn's lobbying efforts succeed, the move will take place in the near future.Garn, R-Utah, is urging the House of Representatives to take prompt action on a bill he sponsored and guided through the Senate to remove a legal barrier that would enable Shriners to construct a new facility.
This is good news to hospital administrator Marie Holm, who says the current 45-bed hospital is "outmoded." It is the only Salt Lake area hospital whose specific mission is to serve orthopedic pediatric patients. All patients are given free medical treatment.
Garn's bill, which passed the Senate last December, removes a legal provision of an existing deed that restricts Shriners Hospital from using available money to construct a new hospital.
The existing hospital is constructed on land once owned by the U.S Department of War. It was sold to the Shriners in 1946 and included a provision that requires reversion of the land (about 71/2 acres) to the government upon sale or relocation.
Garn's bill removes the reversion clause and permits the land and the hospital building on the land to be sold by the Shriners, allowing the proceeds to be applied to the new hospital.
Garn said the sale of the existing land and improvements could significantly reduce the out-of-pocket costs of a new hospital.
"Over the years, the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children has provided free medical assistance to needy children and I'm delighted to help them in their efforts to remove this barrier to building a new hospital," Garn said.
Garn said that before the Senate passed the bill, the General Services Administration insisted that the hospital pay $200,000 to compensate the government for the value of the reverter.
Garn protested the imposed fee, saying, "I believe the fact that the Shriners offer a very worthy health-care service for needy children at no charge should enable them to avoid this sort of stingy assessment by the GSA. Nevertheless, Shriners agreed to pay the fee, and have helped the bill to be passed. I am pleased at the cooperative and magnanimous spirit shown by the Shriners."
The Shriners Hospitals for Crippled Children is a public charity providing free hospital and medical care for children in 22 hospitals, with 20 located in the United States, and one each in Mexico and Canada.