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Critics protest closure of home

More than 200 people armed with picket signs Thursday afternoon chanted in protest of the planned closure of a Woodland Hills hospital and nursing home owned by the Motion Picture & Television Fund.

The crowd flowed from the sidewalk and into the street along Mulholland Drive, west of the 101 Freeway. The protesters -- employees of the care facility, family members of those living there and a few actors and writers -- vowed to keep the facilities open.

“Many people look forward to coming here, and I’m one of them,” said actor John Schneider, who played Bo Duke in the 1980s TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard.” “They all paid for their rooms in there, and they shouldn’t be forced to move out. There’s still time to do something about this.”

Schneider said he was stunned last week when he heard of the closures at the hospital and nursing home.

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“This decision was indeed a fiscal decision made in a vacuum,” Schneider said. “We didn’t lose the debate. We weren’t even invited to the debate.”

The closures would force about 100 residents to leave the long-term care facility and cause 290 people to lose their jobs, the fund said in last week’s statement announcing the plans.

Fund officials refused interviews Thursday but issued a statement saying the charity was “committed to working with families to find the best possible long-term care facilities and creating a transition process that will cause the least amount of disruption.”

A job fair for those laid-off in the closures and referrals to other care facilities are also planned, the statement said. The closures won’t affect about 185 other residents at independent- and assisted-living facilities and six healthcare centers.

Much of the frustration at the protest was aimed at the fund’s board of directors and its chairman, Jeffrey Katzenberg, who also heads DreamWorks Animation SKG.

The fund isn’t out of money yet, but the cost of running the hospital and nursing home could bankrupt the fund “in a very few years,” Katzenberg said in last week’s statement.

The hospital and nursing home had been running at a loss of about $10 million a year -- a number expected to rise in coming years, the fund said. The nursing home closure is set to begin in April and the hospital will close later this year, it said.

But $10 million a year isn’t a big-enough amount to throw in the towel on the nursing home residents, protesters said, pointing to the $10-million donation made by Jodie Foster to specifically build an aquatic center, which recently opened next to the facility.

“If one person can donate $10 million and that’s how much the fund is losing running the hospital and long-term care facility, then why not give us the chance to raise the money, to find donors to help?” said Yvette Simoneau, whose father lives in the nursing home. “A lot of us feel betrayed and feel lied to.”

The news of the proposed closures has already taken a toll on the residents and patients of the hospital and nursing home, said Myra Torres, who works at the facility.

“Many residents have stopped eating. They’re scared in there,” Torres said. “They’re scared they won’t have anywhere to go to and that they’re going to be separated from their family and friends.”

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nathan.olivarezgiles@latimes.com


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