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SAG to Take a Stand on MPTF Closures

A lot of bad blood remains between the two rival factions of the Screen Actors Guild, but one issue might just be powerful -- and apolitical -- enough to bring them together.
Board members representing both sides of the ideological divide hope they can unite their fractious supporters in opposition to the closure of the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s nursing home and hospital.
At least three board members, including Elliott Gould, are planning to put the MPTF closures on the agenda of a Hollywood division board meeting next Monday as part of a coordinated effort to find a way to prevent the oldest, most infirm members of the entertainment community from being thrown out of the home they long assumed would be their last.
Gould visited the MPTF campus in Woodland Hills last week and said he was saddened and angered by what he saw. "Bleak, very bleak," was his assessment.
The population of the long-term care facility has already shrunk from almost 140 when the closures were announced in January to less than 100. More than a dozen residents have died.
Gould, speaking to TheWrap, would not name the two other Hollywood board members planning to put the issue on the agenda, except to say that they represented opposite sides of the ideological divide. Other SAG sources said one was Ned Vaughn, a prominent member of the so-called Unite for Strength faction which believes in merging SAG with AFTRA. It was not immediately clear who the co-sponsor was from the Membership First faction, which believes SAG should remain separate.
Also involved are Hollywood board members Ken Howard, another Unite for Strength advocate, and Bill Smitrovich, who has already been very active in opposing the MPTF closures and is also a Unite for Strength supporter.
Gould said this was not just about making peace within SAG. It was also about trying to find a middle ground between the MPTF management, which has insisted the closures are inevitable because of the poor economy and the poor state of health care, and a noisy group of activists, many of them relatives of long-term care patients, who are preparing a lawsuit and suspect the MPTF may have an ulterior motive for shuttering the facilities.
“I want very much to be unbiased,” Gould said. “We should assess the situation before we start digging. The way forward is not to threaten. Perhaps by not threatening, we can gain some satisfaction or results.”
He added, however: “It’s easy to be biased when innocent people, who have depended on something for so long and put everything they have into making sure they can stay there, are asked to leave.”
Gould was meeting yesterday with Girardi & Keese, the high-profile downtown lawfirm handling the suit on behalf of the aggrieved residents’ relatives. He also hopes to talk to Michael Douglas, an MPTF Foundation board member whose family has been active in elderly care in Hollywood for three generations, and to Jeffrey Katzenberg, the MPTF”s chief fundraiser who has been particularly unapologetic about the unexpected closure announcement.
Gould said he hoped the MPTF could at least agree not to turf people out who are already in the long-term care facility. “My idea is that if you got here, you should stay here,” he said.