DreamWorks Animation chief takes the blame

Jeffrey Katzenberg has taken the blame over how the town found out about the upcoming closure of the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s acute care hospital and long-term care facility in Woodland Hills.

“We give ourselves a failing grade,” said Katzenberg, speaking at a Wednesday news conference in his role as chairman of the MPTF Foundation Board. “We have really not done a good job in that area.”

MPTF execs devoted most of the hourlong news conference to reiterating their contention that the worsening economy had left them with no alternative but to close the money-losing facilities. And they continued to stress that the fund will continue to operate its independent and assisted-care facilities in Woodland Hills and half a dozen health centers in the Los Angeles area — along with modernizing the Woodland Hills campus and expanding its medical and social services to industry retirees.

Katzenberg admitted that the Jan. 14 surprise announcement had created the mistaken impresssion that all MPTF facilities would be shuttered.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he added.

MPTF leaders have been scrambling for the past month to defuse the town’s frustration over the closures, pointing to growing financial pressures that have forced the fund to change its operating strategy while emphasizing that most of the org’s other operations will remain open.

During the hourlong audio news conference, Katzenberg also denied rumors that the MPTF’s actions stem from personal losses he suffered via investments with Bernard Madoff.

But the DreamWorks Animation chief did not elaborate on how much he lost with Madoff or how much he donates to the MPTF. He asserted that the fund has been at the top of his philanthropic donations for the past decade and will continue to be so.

Supporters of the 100 patients being transferred and the 290 MPTF staffers being laid off have contended that the fund’s not fulfilling its obligation to patients. The news conference came a few hours before fired health care workers staged a candlelight vigil at the facilities.

Katzenberg said a trio of factors forced the MPTF’s decision — a 10% decrease in Medi-Cal payments last summer, a decline in the value of the fund’s investments and a lower level of donations to the home.

Board member Mark Fleischer, son of cartoon pioneer Max Fleischer, noted that he was saddened by the closure since both his parents have resided at the home. But he added that bankruptcy would result otherwise.

Fund CEO David Tillman emphasized that the MPTF would go through its current reserves of $110 million in less than five years were it to keep the long-term care facility and the acute care hospital open.

The outcry over the closures prompted the fund to issue a statement during the news conference with specific points in response to recent news reports:

  • MPTF will continue to provide comprehensive care for seniors in the entertainment industry, including those who will need to relocate.

  • Medi-Cal reimbursements have not kept up with the operating costs of the hospital and long-term care unit, where 80% of patients receive Medi-Cal.

  • MPTF has been drawing money out of its investment portfolio and using fund-raising revenue to close the $20 million gap between operating/charity expenses and revenue but asserted that the $20 million gap is growing more rapidly than it can predictably earn income and philanthropic support.

  • The MPTF denied reports that some of the residents feel tormented and are reluctant to eat and that the impending move has caused the health of some to decline and has, in some cases, resulted in deaths.

  • The fund also noted that many hospitals are closing entirely and that Providence St. Joseph, Hemet Valley and Orange Coast Hospital have all recently announced the closures of their long-term care units.

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