2009-02-19 / Health & Wellness

Motion Picture Fund hospital closing doors

By Joann Groff joann@theacorn.com

The Motion Picture & Television Fund board says it plans to stick to its motto, "Taking care of our own," despite last month's announcement that the hospital and its long-term living facilities in Woodland Hills near Calabasas will be closing.

The Motion Picture & Television Fund is a charitable organization that offers assistance and care to employees of the entertainment industry. A group of industry stars that included Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Conrad Nagel, Milton Sills and Douglas Fairbanks created the fund in 1921.

The closing of MPTF's acutecare hospital and long-term care facility will require about 100 residents to be transferred. Acutecare patients—there are rarely more than 10 at one time—will receive their care at other locations after the hospital shutters later this year.

In an audio press conference last week, Frank Mancuso, chair of the MPTF corporate board, said that "the decision to close the hospital and longterm care facility did not come easily, but (it was) one the board needed to make."

MPTF is blaming declining Medi-Cal reimbursements as a main reason for closing. The board claims the gap in each of the last four years between what MPTF received for services and what those services actually cost was $10 million.

The board said MPTF survived by dipping into its investment reserves. But based on projections, the reserves wll be exhausted within five years.

The decision to close the hospital was based on three years of study by MPTF staff and outside experts.

"MPTF is initiating these changes because it's the right thing to do, but the fact is that we have no choice," said Jeffrey Katzenberg, chair of the MPTF Foundation Board. "Although we are in good shape today, the acute-care hospital and long-term care facility are generating operating deficits that could bankrupt MPTF in a very few years. . . . If MPTF doesn't do something now, pretty soon it won't be able to do anything."

The hospital's closure will allow the fund to continue providing support and services to others, including the 215 residents of the Wasserman Campus, a Woodland Hills retirement community, and the 100 children at the Goldwyn Center, a child care program in West Los Angeles.

The MPTF supplied financial support to more than 1,100 people last year and had 65,000 patients use its six healthcare centers.

"We have an obligation to these people, and future generations of entertainment industry workers, to make sure MPTF is there for them," Mancuso said.

The board made its announcement on Jan. 14 but didn't have specific information until recently.

Board members stressed that the fund will continue its commitment to care for the seniors, including those who need to relocate. A team to ease the transition, including a doctor, nurses and a social worker, will be available to each patient. Those needing hospitalization or long-term care after the hospital is closed will be referred to MPTFapproved facilities.

"Closing our long-term care facility does not alter MPTF's historical commitment to industry veterans and their families," said Dr. David Tillman, president and CEO of MPTF. "We'll still be there for our people to make sure they get the care they need and deserve. We will work closely with all our current patients and their families to ensure a safe and successful transition for everyone."

MPTF estimates nearly 300 jobs will be lost as a result of the closure, about a third of its hourly workers and a third of its managerial staff.

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