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State clears movie fund of fault in nursing home transfers

August 26, 2010 |  6:01 pm

The California Department of Public Health has reversed its earlier finding that the Motion Picture and Television Fund broke state law when the charity transferred dozens of residents out of its nursing home.

The department said this month that the fund had been at fault for not issuing to more than 30 residents 30-day notices informing them of their rights, including the option to appeal the decision to relocate them. Fund administrators appealed, however, maintaining that the relocations were voluntary and didn't require the notices.This week the department agreed, clearing the fund of fault.

“We feel strongly vindicated,'' said Bob Beitcher, chief executive of the fund. “It's gratifying that the dispute resolution process worked and we were able to clear our name in this matter that had become a cause celebre.”

Bob Pisano, chairman of the fund's board, hailed the reversal and said a “rush to judgment” had unfairly hurt the charity's reputation. “The conclusion drawn by many — that we lawlessly evicted our residents — is untrue,'' he said.

Department of Public Health spokesman Ralph Montano said the original decision “was withdrawn after we came to the realization that there was no closure date given to the residents, and therefore the formal closure process had never been initiated.”

The reversal drew an angry response from California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, which filed the original complaint. “It is appalling the [department] has capitulated to pressure from the [motion picture fund] to allow it to trample on the rights of its residents,” spokesman Michael Connors said. He said his organization would appeal the decision.

A group fighting the planned closure of the nursing home, Saving the Lives of Our Own, also protested the reversal. “If this is the way agencies protect the people they are supposed to protect, we're in big trouble,” said Nancy Biederman, co-founder of the group. “I'd like to know the basis for the decision.”

Beitcher said neither the fund nor its board pressured the department to change its position, saying the organization followed the normal process for lodging an appeal.

The department's initial ruling on the notices, disclosed by The Times this month, further fueled anger among representatives of nursing home residents who have been calling for the ouster of the home's management.

Fund officials announced in January 2009 that they planned to close the nursing home and hospital, saying they were losing millions, jeopardizing other services provided by the charity. But the board postponed the closure plans after residents and their families mounted a campaign opposing the move. About 50 residents remain in the home, which had more than 100 before the transfers began.

As part of the original report that faulted the transfers, state inspectors also said they found in a June visit to the home that two residents had suffered severe weight loss and sustained falls and fractures without an adequate response from nursing home staff. The report also said residents had been given medication without justification. The department recently substantiated another complaint about improper care for a resident who cut her forehead and fractured her finger after falling from a wheelchair.

Fund officials have disputed claims that care has deteriorated and say they are complying will all state and federal standards.

-- Richard Verrier

Related:

Motion-picture fund broke law in transferring nursing home residents, state says

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