The Motion Picture & Television Fund put out a statement on Wednesday “to identify and dispel several untrue allegations” made about the decision to close the long-term care facility and hospital at its Woodland Hills retirement home. Since these “allegations” came from TheWrap’s investigative series on the closures, we are taking the opportunity to rebut the MPTF’s rebuttals.
The MPTF leadership chose not to raise any of these points during an audio news conference this morning, where both Sharon Waxman, editor of TheWrap, and Andrew Gumbel, author of the series, were present.
- ALLEGATION: MPTF’s announcement of its acute hospital and long-term care closure effectively ends the comprehensive care it once provided to aging industry members.
TRUTH: MPTF is, in fact, continuing its commitment to comprehensive care for seniors in the entertainment industry, including those who will need to relocate. Each person who is relocated will be followed by a Community Care Team consisting of a doctor, a nurse practitioner, nurses, pastoral care and a social worker, all of whom will continue to be involved with their care. Seniors needing hospitalization or long-term care following the closure will be provided with referrals to other MPTF-approved facilities. MPTF
continues to provide care for the more than 215 retirees who live on the Wasserman Campus in independent and assisted living and memory care. We expect this will ultimately position us to be able to provide comprehensive care and assistance to the thousands of entertainment industry seniors who want to age in their own homes.
THEWRAP RESPONDS: Care is not comprehensive if it stops at the moment when elderly residents need the kind of intensive attention provided up to now by the long-term care facility. Members of the entertainment industry have paid dues to the MPTF for years on the understanding that once they enter the home they need never worry about leaving for the rest of their lives.
- ALLEGATION: MPTF’s claim that declining Medi-Cal reimbursements and a depleting endowment are reasons for the closure is untrue.
TRUTH: Medi-Cal reimbursement, which represents more than 80 percent of MPTF patient load, has not kept up with the operating costs of the MPTF hospital and long-term care unit. MPTF provides millions of additional dollars to provide the outstanding service and care that has been so widely acknowledged. The gap between what MPTF receives for these services rendered and the actual cost is $10 million, and has been for the past 4 years. MPTF has had to subsidize a $20 million-a-year difference ($10 million for hospital and long-term care, and an additional $10 million for all other charity services). The gap for operating the hospital and long-term care facility will grow significantly every year, which would lead to a complete depletion of MPTF’s endowment and eventual bankruptcy.
THEWRAP RESPONDS: The allegation is a distortion of what we wrote. We acknowledged that Medi-Cal reimbursements are being squeezed by California’s budgetary crisis. But we also reported, accurately, that the MPTF’s endowment increased in size in 2006 and 2007, as did the total amount of government reimbursements.
- ALLEGATION: MPTF tax returns for 2006 and 2007 do not show a $10 million loss, or any losses at all.
TRUTH: As a non-profit, MPTF submits 990 tax forms, which show the overall financial status of the organization but are not intended to be a detailed indicator of operational performance. The $20 million gap was overshadowed in 2007 by two large, one-time gifts and portfolio performance.
MPTF draws money out of its investment portfolio and uses fundraising revenue to close the above-referenced $20 million gap between operating/charity expenses and revenue. The trend is that the $20 million gap is growing more rapidly than we can predictably earn income and philanthropic support.
THEWRAP RESPONDS: Both here and in the audio news conference, the MPTF seems to imply that revenue from charitable donations and investment income does not count as revenue at all. It does, which is why the tax returns and the audited accounts show an excess, not a deficit, in revenue over operating costs for both 2006 and 2007, the last year for which figures are available. 2008 is almost certainly a different story, which is why TheWrap and other news organizations have tried – unsuccessfully – to get the MPTF to give a detailed description of what happened.
- ALLEGATION: The opening of the Saban Center for Health and Wellness seems inconsistent with an organization in trouble.
TRUTH: The services provided by The Saban Center are integral to MPTF’s future ability to provide comprehensive care to thousands of seniors in the industry. In addition to the utilization of the fitness facility by campus residents, there are already more than 500 industry members regularly using the facility. The Saban Center also gave MPTF the opportunity to consolidate overhead expenses, which saves the organization more than $450,000 a year in rent for office space that no longer needs to be leased.
THEWRAP RESPONDS: The Saban Center cost about $20 million, according to the MPTF. Some of that money came from charitable donations. Some of it was, indeed, an investment intended to save money on office space and other expenses. But spending millions of dollars on a non-essential new facility seems an odd decision if the whole organization is facing a financial crisis, as the MPTF insists it was as far back as 2004.
- ALLEGATION: Some of the residents feel tormented and are reluctant to eat, and their impending move is causing their health to decline and in some cases has resulted in their death.
TRUTH: This is untrue. While this decision is surely causing stress among residents and their families, it has not resulted in change in our usual experience of illnesses, physical ailments or death. Because we know how stressful this is to those involved, each resident being relocated has been assigned a team of professionals to help ensure their physical and emotional comfort during the transition.
THEWRAP RESPONDS: We did not report that the closure announcement have “caused” any deaths. We said the number of deaths since the announcement — said by nursing staff and relatives of residents to be six or seven – was unusually high. Likewise, it was relatives and the nursing staff, the ones closest to the ground, who reported residents feeling “tormented" and reluctant to eat.
- ALLEGATION: Other hospitals are facing the same challenges, but are not closing their long-term care units.
TRUTH: Many hospitals are closing entirely, and here in Southern California Providence St. Joseph, Hemet Valley and Orange Coast Hospital have all recently announced the closures of their long-term care units.
THEWRAP RESPONDS: California hospitals are indeed in crisis, but the activist whose quote is being paraphrased here was talking about nursing homes, not hospitals. Comparable facilities to those at the MPTF, such as the Jewish Homes for the Aging, are not closing. In fact, they are starting to take patients from the MPTF’s long-term care facility, including the mother of board member Mark Fleischer, who participated in the audio news conference.