EXCLUSIVE: I’ve just received confirmation of what I’ve suspected since September 4th: the Motion Picture And Television Fund’s pact for Providence Health & Services California to take over the acute care hospital and intensive care nursing facilities is no more. That’s right, the deal has fallen through whose existence I scooped back in on February 23rd, and then announced with such fanfare, called for Providence to broaden and expand healthcare services to the entertainment industry on the storied Wasserman Campus in Woodland Hills.
However, an MPTF insider tells me tonight that there’s a “better alternative” on the way and that any rumors about the facilities “closing [are] not true”. I know that several major Hollywood moguls have been and still are working behind-the-scenes to find a way to keep servicing acute care patients.
But as of this week, employees and staff of the hospital began telling family members that the Providence deal has collapsed and there is nothing in place to keep it open. So basically the MPTF is back in the same mess it was starting in 2009 when the first announcement was made about the MPTF’s decision to close its acute care hospital and intensive care nursing facilities because they were losing $10 million a year. This became a huge Hollywood story with major ramifications for everyone who considered the MPTF as their safety net in times of sickness and old age. And it underscored how, with all the enormous wealth in showbiz, that the community couldn’t or wouldn’t look after its own better than this.
I understand that the grassroots activists who fought so hard and long to keep the facilities from shuttering have not been officially told yet about this terrible development. Who is served by keeping this secret? Certainly not the patients or their loved ones.
The relationship with Providence meant that that MPTF could continue providing long-term care services on its campus, setting aside its closure announcement. At the time of the announcement, insiders told me, “It couldn’t be a better scenario.” The news came on the eve of the Motion Picture & Television Fund Foundation’s 9th Annual “Night Before” Pre-Oscar Fundraiser hosted by Jeffrey Katzenberg, chairman of the MPTF Foundation Board. It also followed a California Department Of Public Health inspection of the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s skilled nursing facility completed on June 4, 2010, citing the MPTF for rights violations and service failures. And came after the forced resignation of Dr. David Tillman, MPTF’s president and chief executive, and his replacement by the more responsible and conciliatory Bob Beitcher. And let’s not forget the years of bad publicity for nearly everyone involved at the MPTF because of protests by groups like Saving The Lives Of Their Own to ensure that the entertainment industry’s promise of “Taking Care of Our Own” remains unbroken now and for future generations just as it did when it was founded back in 1921 by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith to help showbiz people who fell on hard times. And recent weak Hollywood Guild agreements with the studios and networks will have the result of robbing more members of their middle class livelihoods and imperiling their health and pension benefits so that in the future even more stress will be put on MPTF infrastructure.
Back on November 24th, I reported that MPTF’s recently installed President/CEO Bob Beitcher was trying to effect a compromise and was told “odds are favoring a face-saving yet real solution for the LTC and a major capital campaign, over a continued war of attrition and negative PR”. So a dialogue was ongoing between Beitcher, Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation CEO Ken Scherer, and MPTF moguls. It was two years ago, that without any warning the shocking announcement was made that the MPTF’s acute care hospital and long term care nursing home were losing $10 million a year and that the shortfall was expected to widen significantly in coming years. Cited as the problem was that the vast majority of hospital and LTC patients are covered by government insurance programs whose reimbursement rates have not kept pace with fast-rising operating costs. So MPTF had been making up the shortfall by dipping into its investment reserves. But, based on its projections, continuing to subsidize the hospital and LTC facility would likely exhaust available reserves within five years. About 100 retirees then lived in MPTF’s acute-care facilities. As a result of the planned phase-outs, those patients were to be relocated over the course of 2009 to selected
MPTF and Providence hoped to complete definitive agreements later this year, detailing each party’s roles and responsibilities. Any final agreement would have been subject to Board and regulatory approvals. But the deal never closed. At the time of the announcement, Beitcher said “there are nothing but winners here, including our long-term care residents”. Without another deal in place with caregivers, sounds like there are nothing but losers now.