MPTF to Keep Acute-Care Hospital Open, Expand Services

10:49 AM PST 02/23/2011 by Gregg Kilday

It reverses its controversial 2009 decision to close its long-term care facility.

Reversing its controversial 2009 decision to close its long-term care facility, the Motion Picture and Television Fund announced Wednesday that the unit will remain open under a new agreement with Providence Health & Services.

The MPTF said it has entered into a nonbinding letter of intent with Providence calling for a master lease agreement under which Providence will operate the MPTF hospital and nursing home facilities. The MPTF said that the deal will allow it to broaden and expand healthcare services to the entertainment industry at its Wasserman Campus in Woodland Hills.

Under terms of the agreement, which is subject to regulatory approval, state licenses for the hospital would be transferred to nearby Providence Tarzana Medical Center.

While the hospital is licensed as a 250-bed facility, the MPTF has configured it so that it has about 208 beds at full occupancy. It now houses 37 patients.

The agreement calls for Providence to provide long-term and dementia care in a section of the hospital that will be exclusive to the entertainment industry while also allowing Providence to transfer patients from its other area facilities into other parts of the hospital.

"We couldn't achieve the scale you need to operate the facility," MPTF CEO Bob Beitcher said, "but Providence will be able to do that. When this is completed, it will absorb the costs of operations that had forced us to dive into our endowment fund. We will still need to do significant fund-raising to pay for our other services, but it will put us in a much better financial situation."

The original decision to shut down the unit, resulting in a barrage of negativity publicity, led to the rise of a grass-roots organization Saving the Lives of Our Own, which had protested the idea of a shutdown.

Reacting positively to the new development, Richard Stellar, a member of Saving the Lives said, "For 2 1/2 years, we've been doing battle on the Internet and in the streets to support the future of long-term care. I'm over the moon."

He cautioned, though, that the agreement is still a nonbinding letter-of-intent, released just before MPTF's annual Night Before fund-raiser, which takes place Saturday at the Beverly Hilton.

While his group is not planning any demonstration outside the event, Stellar added, "We can't drop our swords, thinking this is over. It's a great start, and it's good news, but we still have to trust and verify.

"Although I'm not an expert in health care, the fact that they are doing it and recognizing that long-term health care is here to stay is enough for me. But right now, there are also many unfilled beds that could be filled right away with elderly people from our community who need this type of care."

Additionally, with Providence entering the picture, UCLA Health System has agreed to come on board to set up a new neurological rehabilitation unit at the facility.

MPTF's larger primary care network of seven health centers throughout Southern California will not be affected by the agreement, which will more immediately affect the 180 independent and assisted living residents on the Wasserman Campus who require added services as they age.

In addition to long-term and dementia care, Providence will provide other services such as including skilled nursing, palliative care and other post-acute care units, which will also be available to the greater entertainment community.

MPTF will continue its social services programs that include financial grants of charitable assistance, residential subsidies Elder Connection and the Samuel Goldwyn Foundation Children's Center.

"Over the last year, I have been working closely with my fellow board members and management to find a positive resolution to our long-term care and acute care issue. With this letter of intent, the framework is now in place to accomplish that," Beitcher said in announcing the agreement. "The new affiliation with Providence Health & Services will create a vibrant medical campus with services never before available to our industry members."

Based in Renton, Wash., Providence Health & Services is the parent organization of Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center and Providence Tarzana Medical Center, all in the San Fernando Valley, as well as Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Centers in San Pedro and Torrance. It was founded by the Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary.

"Landmark studios in the Valley were instrumental in building our first hospital ministry here, Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center," said Michael Hunn, senior vp and chief executive of Providence California. "Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. and CBS Studios helped finance the initial construction and continue along with NBCUniversal to be among our greatest supporters. The Mission of Providence and the Motion Picture and Television Fund are perfectly aligned."

MPTF and Providence hope to complete definitive agreements this year, detailing each party's roles and responsibilities. Any final agreement will be subject to MPTF board approval.

Once those hurdles are accomplished, though, Beitcher said that patients shouldn't see any changes. The transition, he said, should be "very transparent. It will all look the same, filled with the same Hollywood pictures, and most of the workers will be the same workers. The only thing that will happen is that one day the names on their uniforms will change from Motion Picture and TV Fund to Providence."

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