MPTF phasing out Woodland Hills hospital

Facility closure is a cost-cutting measure

Hollywood's iconic retirement community in suburban Los Angeles will close its on-campus hospital by year's end and lay off a third of its staff while boosting its community-based health services.

The Motion Picture & Television Fund said Wednesday that it is phasing out an acute-care hospital and long-term care facility at its Wasserman Campus in Woodland Hills to cut operating losses that might otherwise bankrupt the facility. In 2006, the MPTF closed a critical-care unit at the hospital, also over money issues.

In announcing its hospital phase-out, the Hollywood-supported organization said it would expand community-based services by establishing a network of "community care teams" to coordinate and expand home-based and other medical and social services to entertainment industry retirees.

"The world is changing and MPTF has been changing with it," MPTF corporate board chairman Frank Mancuso said, "For nearly 90 years, we have embodied Hollywood's unique commitment to taking care of its own. Focusing on a community-based approach will allow us to continue honoring this commitment for another 90 years."

The nonprofit MPTF traces its history to 1921, when Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and others created the Motion Picture Relief Fund to support economically challenged industryites. Its 44-acre retirement village was created two decades later, and health services including off-site care at six outpatient centers continued to expand over subsequent years.

The organization's funding includes regular industry philanthropy and contributions by Hollywood labor organizations.

"MPTF is initiating these changes because it's the right thing to do, but the fact is that we have no choice," said Jeffrey Katzenberg, board chairman at the MPTF Foundation, which oversees fundraising. "Although we are in good shape today, the acute-care hospital and long-term care facility are generating operating deficits that could bankrupt MPTF in a very few years.

"The entertainment community depends on MPTF for a wide range of social and medical services -- everything from health care to emergency financial assistance to childcare and family counseling," Katzenberg said. "And if MPTF doesn't do something now, pretty soon it won't be able to do anything."

The hospital and long-term care facility have been generating annual losses estimated at $10 million over the past few years, part of an even great operating deficit the MPTF has had to carry. Officials said the moves would reduce MPTF red ink to a manageable level.

Some 290 job cuts will accompany the hospital and long-term care phase-outs. The roughly 100 patients residing in the long-term facility will be relocated over the next several months to area nursing homes, but the movies will not affect some 185 residents of MPTF's independent and assisted-living facilities on the retirement campus.

"With costs skyrocketing and government reimbursement declining, operating our own acute-care hospital and long-term care facility is draining our resources at an alarming rate," MPTF chief executive David Tillman said. "The good news is that by emphasizing a community-based approach to senior care, MPTF will not only be able to stay on a solid financial footing, it will also be able to assist many more retirees than we do now -- thousands rather than hundreds."

MPTF officials have been considering such the moves for several, following state cuts in reimbursements to nursing homes, Tillman said. The nation's subsequent economic slide was simply an exacerbating factor, he said.

"This is a decision we were moving toward since Labor Day, but the (recession) has been something of an exclamation point on the fact that the board would have to act," the MPTF chief exec said.

Like other retirees, former industryites prefer to remain in their homes as long as possible these days, with the average age of those moving into the Wasserman campus now 86, Tillman noted. The trend increases the need for community-based services and somewhat mitigates the impact of the hospital closure, he said.

"These changes will safeguard MPTF's ability to continue meeting our community's medical and social service needs for decades to come," said Casey Wasserman, chairman of the Wasserman Foundation, a major benefactor of the MPTF.

The Wasserman campus memorializes years of support by the family of the late Hollywood mogul, Lew Wasserman. His widow and Casey Wasserman's grandmother, Edith Wasserman, is an MPTF board trustee.

"MPTF's willingness to confront these challenging issues head on and its ability to come up with creative solutions makes it more deserving than ever of our support," Casey Wasserman added.