Hollywood’s real-life hospital drama

Closing of MPTF facility irks industry members

Studios are cutting thousands of jobs, instituting hiring freezes and ordering compensation reductions.

But no initiative has heard more bitching from the town at large — and has had more bad press — than the Motion Picture Television Fund’s decision to close its acute care hospital and long-term care facility.

For 86 years, the MPTF has provided financial and health assistance to industry members. So anyone who curtails that, according to a very vocal up-in-arms contingent, must be heartless.

That’s the unfortunate position in which Jeffrey Katzenberg finds himself. Katzenberg, chair of the MPTF foundation, orchestrated last week’s conference call that was meant to address the concerns of those who don’t buy the rationale –especially bloggers, who have inflamed the situation.

“We give ourselves a failing grade” in how the news was communicated to the industry, Katzenberg said in a conference call on Feb. 11. “We have really not done a good job in that area.”

To be clear, the closures of the two specific facilities, according to MPTF board member Frank Mancuso, have been ordered “so that we can continue to provide services and support to the 215 residents on the Wasserman Campus, the 100 children who are cared for at the Goldwyn Center, the 1,100 people who received financial support from MPTF last year, the almost 5,000 people who reach out to MPTF for some type of social service and the more than 65,000 patients that use one of our six health centers every year.”

And on the call, the MPTF execs stressed that they will “continue (its) commitment to comprehensive care for seniors in the entertainment industry, including those who will need to relocate.”

No sector of American business, especially health care, is immune to the economic maelstrom, but that doesn’t seem to placate anybody. In the past few weeks, there have been candlelight vigils, advertisements and organized protests, all of which have led Katzenberg’s gang to conduct some major damage control.

And many in Hollywood, including Katzenberg, who were planning to contribute to the MPTF were hit hard by the Bernard Madoff scandal.

Other allegations and MPTF responses:

  • Allegation: Some of the residents feel tormented and are reluctant to eat, and their impending move is causing their health to decline and in some cases has resulted in their death. MPTF response: While this decision is surely causing stress among residents and their families, it has not resulted in change in our usual experience of illnesses, physical ailments or death.

  • Allegation: Other hospitals are facing the same challenges, but are not closing their long-term care units. MPTF response: Many hospitals are closing entirely, and in Southern California, Providence St. Joseph, Hemet Valley and Orange Coast Hospital have all recently announced the closures of their long-term care units.

That may be true…but nobody apparently wants to hear it.