Execs hail 'pivotal moment' in commitment

Three years after announcing it would close its long-term care unit, the Motion Picture and Television Fund facility will begin admitting new patients.

The MPTF made the announcement Wednesday morning, saying that it will immediately begin adding patients to the long-term care unit in Woodland Hills. First priority will be given to former MPTF long-term care residents who were relocated offsite in the wake of the proposed closure of the unit in 2009.

There are currently 29 patients at the facility, and that number will go up to 40 — a far smaller number than the 136 housed in long-term care in early 2009, when the MPTF announced that it faced a cost crunch that would force it to shutter the long-term care unit and the acute-care hospital.

Still, it’s a marked change for the MPTF, which has faced a barrage of criticism over the past three years from those questioning whether it has been fulfilling its stated mission of “taking care of our own.”

“I think a lot of people have been waiting for this,” said Bob Beitcher, president and CEO of the MPTF. “This will be a pivotal moment for current long-term care residents and their families, other campus residents and staff. It will restore the continuum of care on campus everyone has been hoping for.”

Beitcher told Variety that he’s hopeful the MPTF will be able to announce in February that it’s reached an agreement with a health-care services provider. The MPTF had announced plans a year ago to turn over operations to Providence Health & Services California, but that pact wasn’t finalized.

DreamWorks Animation topper Jeffrey Katzenberg, chairman of the MPTF Foundation, said Wednesday, “Our decision to admit additional residents at this time reaffirms not only our commitment to the MPTF mission but also to long-term care as a keystone service to our entertainment community.”

The announcement drew support from the group Saving the Lives of Our Own, which has long advocated that the long-term facility stay open. The grassroots group staged protests in 2009 and 2010, saying the MPTF was violating its mission and the pledge to residents that they’d be able to spend the rest of their lives at the Woodland Hills campus.

“Today’s announcement heralds a great future for the Fund,” said the group’s spokeswoman, Nancy Biederman. “We congratulate the MPTF on its stewardship and vision, as well as all those who worked together to uphold the Fund’s historic mission and move it forward.”

The MPTF also said that its long-term care and dementia care units will continue to be exclusive to entertainment industry members.

“While Bob Beitcher and his team continue to re-engineer the broad MPTF enterprise, we think it is important to revitalize long-term care on our campus with new admissions,” said Bob Pisano, chairman of the MPTF board. “We hope this is only the first of several key announcements about MPTF that will point the way to an exciting future.”

Beitcher said recent MPTF fund-raising has been on par with previous years. The org is prepping for its annual “Night Before” fund-raiser, held at the Beverly Hills Hotel on the night before the Oscars.

MPTF also said Wednesday that its primary care network of six health centers — annually serving an estimated 60,000 entertainment industry workers — will not be affected. It also said it is continuing to offer its social services programs, including financial grants of charitable assistance for industry members in need, residential support, palliative care, Elder Connection and the Samuel Goldwyn Foundation Children’s Center.

When the closures were announced in early 2009, fund execs said that the combo of the state of the economy and the rising cost of health care left them with no alternatives. The two facilities had been operating at an annual funding deficit of about $10 million, with the MPTF making up the deficit via investment reserves and the fund warning that it would likely exhaust available reserves within five years.

Although the fund declared in January 2009 that it would shutter the two facilities in Woodland Hills by the end of 2009, it later backed off, asserting that it became more difficult than anticipated to find acceptable beds outside the facility.

Beitcher was tapped as interim CEO in February 2010 after David Tillman resigned as president and CEO. The interim tag was removed last year.

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