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HomeNewsMPTF Board Explains Closures

MPTF Board Explains Closures


The surprise announcement by the Motion Picture and Television Fund that it will be shuttering its Woodland Hills hospital for acute-care of the aging and its facility for long-term health care by the end of 2009 triggered protests by angry patients seeking to overturn the decision and sowed general confusion about the plan.
There were also accusations in the media that Hollywood, which spends tens of millions of dollars annually to promote films for Oscar consideration, was being cheap when it came to care of its needy seniors.
In an effort to counter the irate and also fearful reaction and to respond to widespread confusion about what was involved, Jeffrey Katzenberg, chairman of the MPTF Foundation Board, and Steven Poster, president of Local 600, the International Cinematographers Guild, tried to clarify the situation.
The explanation for the closures was that the facilities, which had become outdated, were the source of $10 million in annual losses that if continued over the long-run threatened the overall viability of the MPTF fund. Clarifications were necessary to get the message out that the assisted-living facilities and cottage residences on the 40-acre campus would not be affected, nor would other health care programs be terminated.
Katzenberg, talking to Deadline Hollywood columnist Nikki Finke who didn’t quote him directly but paraphrased the conversation, “expressed dismay” that the badly communicated statement led “most people right now to assume that the MPTF and the home are either closing or in great jeopardy.”
Poster, in an email, attempted to reassure worried ICG members that their own pension and health care plan was not in jeopardy. The Motion Picture and Television Fund, he wrote, “is a completely separate entity governed by a completely separate board than that of the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans. The Fund is a charity completely dependent upon donations.”
He added: “The Hospital and Long Term Care (LTC) facility are not to be confused with the Motion Picture Home. The independent and assisted living residents of the retirement community on The Wasserman Campus are not in jeopardy. In fact, plans are underway to do some renovations to upgrade the Country House, the Ray & Fran Stark Villas, the Frances Goldwyn Lodge and hopefully to expand the facilities in the future. The Saban Center is fully functioning.”
The explanations and attempts at damage control didn’t stop some 250 angry patients, nurses and actors from demonstrating on January 23 outside of the motion picture home to get the decision reversed, while carrying signs like “Dumping Our Own.” There was anger that the announcement came like a bombshell, though the funding problem had been going on for years.
Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein wrote a piece headlined “Motion Picture Fund debacle: Is Hollywood really that cheap?” which referred to “the queasy little issue of Hollywood priorities.” He went on: “We have six major movie studios who all tell me every year how profitable they are and who happily spend millions of dollars every year buying ‘for your consideration’ ads, throwing parties and premieres, all in search of the prestige of winning an Oscar. We also have untold affluent actors, filmmakers and studio executives who cough up plenty of dough for political candidates and environmental causes but rarely make sure that they’ve first done something for charities closer to home like the Motion Picture Fund.”
Though the situation is complex, around 100 patients will have to be removed to other nursing homes in the area and 290 staff members will lose their jobs. The MPTF board said it would do its best to ameliorate the impact on patients and personnel.
Points made by Katzenberg, according to Finke’s paraphrases:
l The board knew the closures were coming for a number of years but that everyone chose not to deal with it for all the right compassionate reasons. Instead, people wanted just to carry on and ignore the situation. But then the MPTF reached the point where it was simply not possible to continue to do nothing.
l The main problem is that the facility is almost 60 years old and in no way, shape or form up to the demands for first-class medical care needed by acute-care patients today.
l The MPTF knows that when it accepts the responsibility for caring for showbiz people, then it had better be able to deliver a state-of-the-art service for them. But the facility just can’t keep up. And the attempt to keep up has placed the MPTF in a terrible situation where the $10 million loss a year is draining the endowment to such an extent that the entire MPTF services and facilities are now precipitously on the edge.
l The other reason why this situation accelerated into such a crisis that the board had to act immediately was because the endowment, just like everybody else’s endowment, is down 30 percent in value because of the Wall Street crash. So this combination of the endowment losing significant value in 2008, combined with the mounting losses and the fact that the facility was not up to standards for state-of-the-art care for the patients, forced the board to act.
Poster in his email made these observations:
l The Fund Clinics (Woodland Hills, Toluca Lake, Bob Hope Health Center, Santa Clarita, Westside, and Canoga Park) are not the same thing as the Hospital. They are not affected by this decision and will continue to provide excellent healthcare to IATSE members.
l The skyrocketing costs of health care in this country are draining the resources of the privately funded MPTF. The vast majority of patients in the hospital and Long Term Care facility were dependent upon government insurance programs (Medi-Cal/Medicare) whose reimbursement rates have not kept pace with fast-rising operating costs. Based on current projections, continuing to subsidize the hospital and LTC facility would likely exhaust available reserves within five years and threaten the entire system.

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