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

August 11, 2010 |  2:27 pm

In a rebuke of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, state inspectors concluded that fund administrators violated state law when they transferred dozens of residents out of the charity’s beleaguered nursing home last year.

The California Department of Public Health said in a recent report that nursing-home managers did not issue 30-day discharge notices to more than 30 residents who left the nursing home informing them of their rights, including the option to appeal the decision to relocate them.

Such notices are required under federal and state law and were also supposed to be issued under a plan the fund had submitted to the department as part of its preparations for shutting down the nursing home and hospital in Woodland Hills, state records show.

The report, based on a survey of the home conducted in June, also found that two residents suffered severe weight loss and sustained falls and fractures without adequate response from nursing-home staff, and that others were given drugs without justification. No fines or citations have been issued against the fund in connection with the findings.

Nonetheless, the report marks another black eye for the fund, which was issued a severe citation by the California Department of Public Health earlier this year for failing to prevent a serious head injury to an 87-year-old patient. The latest findings prompted immediate calls for the replacement of current nursing-home management. The head of the fund, David Tillman, resigned in February and was replaced by former Panavision executive Bob Beitcher after coming under heavy fire over his handling of the planned closure of the Woodland Hills facilities. Other key administrators remain at the home.

“It is clear that now is the time for the MPTF board of trustees to take decisive action and replace the management responsible for these grievous residents’ rights violations with ethical and compassionate administrators,’’ said Nancy Biederman, co-founder of Saving the Lives of Our Own, a group that has been lobbying to keep the nursing home from closing.

Beitcher said the fund did not act improperly. "In our view, it wasn't necessary to issue notices of transfer to residents because these were voluntary transfers," he said. "They could have chosen to stay if they wanted to." Beitcher said he had not seen the other aspects of the report and could not immediately comment, but he said the "quality of care hasn't diminished" and that the home was complying with all state and federal standards.

The report is certain to add fuel to the controversy that has refused to die down since the fund's board announced in January 2009 that it was closing the facilities, which for decades have provided care to entertainment-industry workers. The board said the reason for the closure was that the facilities were losing millions of dollars each year and the fund could not longer afford to operate them.

But the fund was forced to postpone its closure plans after most residents refused to leave and mounted a campaign to keep the home operating. Although dozens of nursing and hospital staff were laid off last year, no date has been set for the closure.

Residents and their families have long complained that they faced undue pressure to leave the home and that the quality of care has suffered as a result of staffing cutbacks, a claim the fund has denied. About 50 residents remain in the home, which had more than 100 before the transfers began.

“These serious neglect findings are just another sign that the motion-picture home is understaffed and operated in shutdown mode,’’ said Michael Connors, spokesman for the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, a nonprofit San Francisco group that lodged a complaint with the health department in May about the lack of notices.

-- Richard Verrier