MPTF Closure Hurts Everyone Involved

Soon after I became the head of the newly formed MPTF Foundation over fourteen years ago, what started as a job became a way of life that filled me with passion. I quickly fell in love with a concept: the idea that an organization could be built around a collective conviction that an industry — in […]

Last Updated: August 26, 2009 @ 7:40 AM

Soon after I became the head of the newly formed MPTF Foundation over fourteen years ago, what started as a job became a way of life that filled me with passion.

I quickly fell in love with a concept: the idea that an organization could be built around a collective conviction that an industry — in this case film and television — would care for its own. Roddy McDowall crystallized the idea so well when he called it a “noble notion.”

 

And I took up the cause with unchecked enthusiasm as have countless others over the years who have devoted their lives to making it a reality.

Through the years, I have experienced the very best in the “Hollywood” people I have met — from moguls and movie stars to those “behind the camera” and who work on “the lot.” And I have gathered countless stories about the profound impact the Fund has had on so many lives.

 

Whether it was saving a home from foreclosure, helping to subsidize an out of work actor during a strike, paying expensive health care bills, helping a family battle through alcoholism, or retrofitting the home of an elderly person so he or she could remain self-sufficient, the Fund has been there. It gives me a great sense of pride and deep satisfaction to be a part of this tradition.

So how have we arrived at this moment of anguish? How could it be that MPTF is forced to close its Hospital and long-term care unit by the end of 2009? And while our residential retirement community — the Home — will remain open, our critics ask how we could supposedly turn our backs on the most elderly and infirmed.

We are not turning our backs on our residents but these are understandable questions, even for someone like me who has spent the better part of five years digesting facts, talking to donors, and analyzing projections.

I have watched Board members and staff work through their anger and denial at what the projections indicated for our future. I have shared the tears of dedicated staff as they were being asked to implement a decision that feels so wrong.

 

Yet, they still continue to do their jobs like the professionals they are while dealing with the anger and frustration of families and their patients. The staff deserves all our appreciation as they are caught in the middle of an awful situation.

It is this same caring and devoted staff who have worked tirelessly to identify new high quality facilities for our patients and who even flew with one resident who chose an out-of-state nursing home to be closer to her family.

 

It is the same dedicated staff who is still providing medical, social service and spiritual care to residents who have moved to new facilities.

So forgive me if I find the statement “MPTF is throwing people out” disingenuous at best. A charity that for 89-years has been the beacon of care and service to a community doesn’t wake up one morning and decide we no longer care.

The truth is that we reached a point where despite record fundraising, the loss from increasing costs and declining revenue in the hospital and long-term care unit will bankrupt this charity over the next few years.

 

We are doing what we must to protect this institution for the 60,000 people it serves every year and for future generations. It was a painful decision made in good faith by people who are dedicated to the Fund and its mission. There is a national health care crisis in this country and we are not immune to its effects.

Yet I understand and appreciate that this reality is of little consequence to those who are struggling with the emotional decisions that have such profound consequences for a husband, a wife, a mother or father.

 

Many of us have had to manage the care of our loved ones and know full well the stress and pressure of providing that care. It is for that reason that MPTF is doing everything possible to assist each family in this process.

As we move forward with our plans to close the long term care unit and hospital, my fear is that the campaign by some to save the hospital and long term care facility at all costs has the potential to destroy the future of a charity that serves thousands of industry workers each year.

 

And it pains me that some of the people we are committed to serving are attacking us for doing what we must to continue providing them with care.

All of us at MPTF are committed to continue making Roddy’s “noble notion” a reality and to protect it from being torn apart by the anger that is felt by many. The residents of our long term care unit will always be important and valued members of the MPTF community.

We must come together for the good of all so as not to destroy a charity that is unique in its eight decades of service to an industry and whose community needs it now more than ever.

Ken Scherer is Chief Executive Officer of the Motion Picture & Television Fund Foundation, a non-profit organization offering health and charitable services to Southern California’s entertainment community. During his thirteen years in this leadership position, Mr. Scherer has worked closely with Foundation Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg in successfully raising over $125,000,000 for the programs and services of the entertainment industry’s leading charity. Most notably Mr. Scherer has successfully directed a $50,000,000 building campaign on the Wasserman Campus of MPTF in Woodland Hills, California. He was the driving force behind the creation of the highly successful pre-Oscar event -- Night Before in 2002 -- that has become the social fundraising event during the Oscar season. Scherer is also the Executive Producer of the annual NBC telecast of Michael Douglas & Friends Celebrity Golf benefitting MPTF.