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Motion Picture & TV Fund in talks with Providence and UCLA to run hospital and nursing home

December 1, 2010 |  2:45 pm

Motionpichospital 
Seeking to end to a nearly two-year-long saga over the fate of its nursing home and hospital, the Motion Picture & Television Fund is in advanced talks with hospital chain Providence and UCLA Health System to turn over the operations of the money-losing facilities.

The talks center around a proposed agreement that would allow those organizations to take full financial responsibility for the nursing home and hospital in Woodland Hills that serves workers in the entertainment industry, said a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the talks are confidential.

The plan is preliminary, the source said, with many details yet to be worked out. It would have to be approved by the fund’s board and by state regulators before it could take effect, likely early next year.

Still, if finalized, it would appear to represent a compromise, giving something to both sides in the standoff: Residents would get their wish of keeping the facilities open, albeit under a different set of conditions, while the fund would no longer be on the hook for operations that have been a financial drain on the charity.

Representatives of UCLA and Providence were not immediately available for comment.

Under the proposed plan, the charity would still own the facilities but lease them to the two not-for-profit organizations, which would staff and manage them. The facilities would offer guaranteed placements for 38 residents in the nursing home and would also serve other residents in the 44-acre community, but would also be open to people outside the entertainment industry. That’s a departure from the charity’s longstanding mandate, and could spark some opposition from home’s supporters who worry that not enough beds would be available. 

But in a meeting last month with residents, Bob Beitcher, the fund's interim chief executive,  said the fund had made headway in talks with two organizations about running the nursing home, and that the fund would continue to give priority to residents already on the campus, a person who attended the meeting said.

The nursing home would also admit short-term-care Medicare patients -– for example, those recovering from surgery who don’t need long-term care. Medicare pays higher rates for such patients, making them attractive to nursing homes.

To handle the additional resident load, the nursing home, which is licensed for 250 beds, could double the current capacity.

“We are thrilled to hear that progress has been made,'' said Nancy Biederman, co-founder of the group Savings the Lives of Our Own, which has fought the nursing home's closure. “As always, the devil is in the details and we look forward to reviewing the details of the plans.”

 The fund’s charitable mandate would fit with the mission of Providence, a Catholic health services provider that operates hospitals, including St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, and healthcare clinics and nursing homes through the West Coast. UCLA operates the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood and has many patients on the Westside who could be served by nursing home.

If approved, the plan would resolve a controversy that has refused to abate since the fund's board announced in January 2009 that it planned to close the hospital and nursing home, saying it could no longer afford to operate them because they are losing millions of dollars each year.

Residents and their supporters vigorously opposed the decision, saying there were not comparable facilities available to them elsewhere and that the fund was giving up on its mandate of “taking care of our own.” Fund officials were forced to repeatedly postpone their closure plans after many of the residents refused to leave, hired an attorney to fight their eviction, and mounted a campaign to keep the facility open.

The nursing home has cut most of its staff, prompting criticism from residents and their families that the quality of care has suffered. In May, state regulators fined the fund $7,500 for failing to prevent a serious head injury sustained by an 87-year-old resident of the home. This week the California Department of Public Health said it was investigating a complaint about the death of a patient who fell down a stairwell. The fund has declined to comment on the investigation but has denied claims that care has suffered.

Beitcher, the fund's interim chief executive, has pushed to consider alternatives to shutting the facilities down since he was tapped to replace the fund's former head, David Tillman, who resigned in February after coming under fire of his handling of the closure announcement and its aftermath.

 -- Richard Verrier

Photo: About 38 residents remain in the motion-picture nursing home and hospital in Woodland Hills, which formerly had more than 100 residents. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

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