State health inspectors say the Motion Picture and Television Fund broke the law by failing to give adequate notice before transferring dozens of residents out of its long-term facility last year.
The MPTF has been embroiled in a year-long standoff with patients and their families over its decision to close its Woodland Hills facility in the face of escalating costs and budget shortfalls.
The California Department of Health claims MPTF administrators failed to give residents 30 days' notice after announcing the home’s closure in January 2009, according to a report released Wednesday.
Moreover, state and federal law requires that nursing-home residents be informed of their right to appeal their relocation, something the MPTF did not do.
The department's decision does not carry any penalties or fines. Yet members of Saving the Lives of Our Own, the grassroots organization formed to protest the long-term care center’s closure, are using the report to call for the ouster of MPTF officials.
The Department of Public Health investigated the notice violations in response to a complaint from the non-profit group, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.
MPTF officials said they were formally disputing several of the report's findings. However, they also notified the department of their plans to take corrective actions to ensure that proper notice will be given to residents in the future.
“It wasn’t in our mind to do this. It was not like we set around and said we’re not going to give someone 30 days' notice,” the MPTF's CEO Bob Beitcher told TheWrap, adding that the care center had misintepreted the notice rule.
Members of several advocate groups for the nursing home's residents all told TheWrap that the report's findings could be the backbone of a possible civil action against the MPTF.
"We are absolutely outraged," said Melody Sherwood, a member of Saving the Lives of Our Own. "The time for the board to take corrective action is long overdue. There is no way to misinterpret what is required by law."
David Tillman, was CEO of the MPTF when the decision was made to shutter the care center. He was forced to resign last February and was replaced in the top job by Beitcher, a board member and the former CEO of Panavision.
Michael Connors of the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, disputes Beitcher's contention that the 30-days requirement had been misunderstood. In the relocation plan the MPTF filed with the state before the closure was announced, hospital administrators said that they would provide 30 days' notice, according to Connors.
"They knew about the rules and they disregarded it," Connors said. "They defied the law and they were acting as if they were above the law."
Beitcher said that in most of the cases mentioned in the report, residents left voluntarily.
"Beitcher's wrong. These people were bullied, coerced and pressured into leaving," Richard Stellar, a member of Saving the Lives of Our Own, told TheWrap.
In addition to calling for the firing of administrators, Connors is urging the MPTF to send notices to all residents relocated from the facility, inviting them to return.
In its report, state officials also criticized the quality of the hospital's care. Two patients were found to be underweight and to have sustained substantial bruising from falls. In addition, the hospital was cited for improperly administering medication.
Beitcher said that these were isolated incidents — one case involved a patient with a medical condition that made them susceptible to bruising — and that the hospital officials would reach out to the families involved.
"I know that a lot of residents feel we are understaffed, but our staffing complies with federal and state statutes," Beitcher told TheWrap. "We stand by the quality of our care. I feel that it is as good as any longterm care facility in the country and I stand by our staff."
(Updated 7:09 p.m.: The news of the legal violations drew the attention of a powerful Hollywood lobbying group – the Screen Actors Guild.
"These are our brothers and sisters in the entertainment industry who have entrusted their care to us," Ken Howard, the guild's national president, said in a statement. "We cannot and must not abandon them. The entertainment industry has always set an example for the rest of the world on charity, diversity, and compassion. Now we have a chance to show how we tend to our own.")
Wednesday's report comes on the heels of a $7,500 fine from the California Department of Health last May for failing to prevent an injury to an 87-year-old resident.
Since the 2009 announcement, the number of residents has shrunk from 136 members to 47 — some have been transferred to other facilities and some succumbing to old age and other infirmities. More than 60 staff members have been laid off.
Last May, the remaining long-term care residents were consolidated into a single facility on its Wasserman Campus following the closure of its 1960s-era Pavilion.