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Motion picture nursing home plan hits snag in Washington

January 04, 2012|By Richard Verrier, Los Angeles Times

A plan to help secure the future of Hollywood's most famous nursing home has been stalled by gridlock in Washington.

After months of negotiations, the board of the Motion Picture & Television Fund is close to finalizing a deal with Kindred Healthcare Inc. of Louisville, Ky., to invest in long-term acute-care services at the Woodland Hills complex that includes the nursing home.

Under the proposed agreement, Kindred would invest $10 million to remodel an existing hospital building and would lease hospital and rehabilitation beds from the fund. That would give much-needed revenue to the fund, which provides various social and healthcare services to entertainment industry workers.

But the signing of the deal, which was originally expected to be completed by the end of 2011, has been delayed by uncertainty over whether Congress will extend a moratorium on the building of long-term acute-care facilities.

The current moratorium is to expire at the end of this year. Lawmakers are weighing whether to extend the moratorium one or two more years, as part of a controversial plan to help preserve Medicare payments to physicians at their current levels.

But predicting when and whether that will happen in a deeply divided Congress is unclear. And Motion Picture & Television Fund board members are reluctant to greenlight any deal with Kindred until the moratorium issue is clarified, said a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the discussions are confidential.

The delay is the latest setback for the Motion Picture & Television Fund, which announced plans to close the facilities three years ago, saying they were losing millions of dollars each year, mainly because of losses at the nursing home's hospital.

But the decision sparked a revolt among residents and their families, who complained that the fund, a charity launched by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and other Hollywood luminaries, was abandoning its charter to care for entertainment industry workers. They mounted a campaign to keep the nursing home open and hired a high-profile attorney to block residents from being evicted.

The board last summer hired a new chief executive, former Panavision Inc. CEO Bob Beitcher, who has been working on various alternatives to shutting down the nursing home, where only 29 of the more than 130 residents who lived there when the closure was announced remain. The board turned to Kindred last year after a deal with Providence Health & Services to manage the facilities fell through. Providence balked at assuming financial responsibility for the operations.

Under the pending arrangement, Kindred, which operates long-term acute-care hospitals and nursing-rehabilitation centers nationwide, would take over some functions of the existing hospital while offering new acute-care services. The Motion Picture & Television Fund would continue to operate the nursing home.

Regardless of what happens with Kindred, people close to the fund say the board is committed to keeping the nursing home open but on a smaller scale with about 40 beds. The fund also would save money by streamlining services and shutting down the existing general-services hospital, which was built in the 1960s and has been a financial drain on the charity.

The fund has set aside $10 million to help refurbish the existing nursing home and pay for other new services, including a geriatric and psychiatric-care unit that would be operated in affiliation with UCLA Health System. UCLA operates the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood and has many patients on the Westside who could be served by the nursing home.

richard.verrier@latimes.com

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