Exclusive: Notes from the MPTF Board Decision to Shut Hospital

In trustee's meeting about closing hospital, only producer Walter Seltzer raised objections

EXCLUSIVE

Two years ago, at a December board meeting about the fate of the Motion Picture and Television Fund's (MPTF) long-term care facility and hospital, only one trustee objected to the controversial decision to shutter the services, according to the minutes of that meeting obtained by TheWrap.

In standing alone that day, Walter Seltzer said that the board had an obligation to keep the facility open as part of the fund's organizational mission.

"There were many, many different approaches that would have been better than the decision we took," Seltzer told TheWrap this week.

But Seltzer's protests were overpowered by the arguments of Dr. David Tillman, then CEO of the MPTF, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the MPTF's chief fundraiser. Tillman said the over 70-year-old service must end, because of the fund's $20 million budget shortfall and a worsening economy, the minutes say.
 

(Read the full minutes here)

At that same meeting, Tillman rejected the idea of launching a fundraising drive to save the hospital, arguing that it would be difficult to attract donors for a program that was neither "future oriented" nor "sustainable."

The push to close the facility has resulted in a heated standoff between the fund's administration and a grassroots organization called Saving the Lives of Our Own. It also led to the ouster of Tillman as head of the organization last February.

In a bit of dramatic irony, Tillman is gone, but there are still 55 people living at the facility today. This despite the fact that the board was told at that December meeting that relocating the over 100 long-term care residents could be accomplished in roughly 60 days.

With minimal objections, the over 25 trustees attending the December 18 meeting embraced Tillman's argument, so concerned were they that its continued operation would permanently strain the other services the MPTF provides. At the end of the meeting they would vote unanimously to approve an October decision by the organization's corporate board to close the facility.

That one notable exception, Seltzer, a producer of "Soylent Green" and "The Omega Man," cited his personal experiences. Seltzer recounted a story of how having a doctor and hospital nearby helped when his wife, who was then living on the Wasserman Campus, had a medical issue in the middle of the night.

Seltzer recused himself from voting on the resolution to close the facillity that day, "out of emotion," he told TheWrap on Wednesday.

Seltzer, who continues to serve on the board, said he was surprised that no other trustees raised concerns .

"I don't think they fully understand the implications of what was happening," Seltzer said.

Board member Irma Kalish, who did attend that meeting, would resign shortly thereafter, according to another knowledgeable individual.

Even with celebrities such as George Clooney and Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard raising the possibility that funds could be raised to keep the hospital open, Seltzer said he doubts the board will back down from its 2008 decision.

At the time, Katzenberg, Dreamworks Animation CEO and the MPTF's chief fundraiser, acknowledged Seltzer's reservations, but countered by arguing that the entire fund could collapse unless the board closed the longterm care facility.

In his presentation to the board, Tillman said that approximately half of the fund's deficit was from the rising cost of operating the long-term care facility. Even with the closure of the facility, however, Tillman acknowledged that the fund's losses would continue to grow.

The MPTF chief said that diminishing Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements were partly to blame and speculated that the fund would lose $10 million over the next year if the long term care facility continued to operate.

Tillman said that the facility could not close by attrition, because that would take years. Instead, Tillman said that MPTF officials should work to transfer residents to other facilities in the community.

Board member Walter Mirisch, the producer of movies such as "In the Heat of the Night," raised the issue of leaks in announcing the closure of the longterm care facility. Mirisch said that by waiting until after the holidays, he was concerned that the board could lose control of the message if the word got out. 

Tillman said he would move the announcement from January 21 to January 14.

In addition to Katzenberg, Mirisch, and Tillman, the trustees who voted for the resolution were Chairman Joseph Fischer, Roger Mayer, Robert Osher, Dan Slusser, Karen Stuart, Gene Allen, Bob Beitcher, Bruce Davis, Frank Davis, Darcie Denkert, Mark Fleischer, Irma Kalish, Michael Karlin, Hawk Koch, Mary Ledding, Frank Manusco, Lawrence Mirisch, Richard Myerson, Robert Oswaks, Gloria Palazzo, Pat Purcell, Peter Mark Richman, William Schallert, and Henry Vilardo.

Asked to comment on the meeting's minutes, Tillman's replacement, Bob Beitcher, argued that the discussion that day reaffirmed the MPTF's longstanding rationale for closing the long term care facility and hospital.

“This leaked document confirms what we have been saying all along about the MPTF Long Term Care closure," Beitcher said in an e-mailed statement. "The size of our past operating shortfalls, the amounts specifically attributable to operating LTC, the threat of future increases in shortfalls, the additional depletion of the Fund’s investment portfolio by unfavorable market conditions, the legitimate concern about reduced future fundraising due to a depressed stock market, our work with the Camden Group to minimize losses through the closure of other services – all of these are detailed in the Board minutes. As important, so is the thoughtfulness of the Board members, their generosity toward terminated workers, their utmost care and concern about the LTC residents and families, and finally, their focus and commitment to take all appropriate and necessary actions to ensure that the Fund will continue to do its good work for future generations of industry members.”

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