A mix-up in the time of a planned meeting deepens the rift between city officials and a doctor who has been highly critical of the city’s readiness for emergencies. Officials say the doctor’s attacks are misdirected; the doctor advocates recalling the City Council.
By Susan Reines/Special to The Malibu Times
City officials launched a new wave of defense this week against a doctor who has been assailing the city’s emergency preparedness programs, telling the doctor to direct his complaints to the county after a controversial scheduling mix-up botched the first planned face-to-face meeting of city officials, the doctor and other local doctors.
After weeks of responding to allegations of unpreparedness by emphasizing that the city has organized local doctors, stocked supplies and trained residents, city staff took a fresh tactic this week against Dr. Victor Dorodny’s criticisms, telling him the county Fire Department-not the city-has the authority to organize the kind of emergency response team of doctors Dorodny has been trying to set up in partner with the city.
City staff suggested that Dorodny redirect his attacks when he and officials from his volunteer Malibu Medical Reserve Corps, one of whom had flown from San Diego for the meeting, arrived at City Hall two hours after staff and the other doctors had met.
City Manager Katie Lichtig provided The Malibu Times with an e-mail dated Aug. 16 addressed to local doctors and the MMRC stating that the meeting would take place at noon Sept. 14, but Dorodny said he had confirmed a 2 p.m. start time with staff multiple times.
“We’re under the impression that we were meant to miss that meeting,” Dorodny said.
Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Brad Davis agreed to meet with Dorodny and his team when they arrived at 2 p.m., though Lichtig and the other doctors could not attend. During that meeting Davis reportedly told Dorodny the city did not have the authority to address his allegations that Malibu is a danger zone because it has no emergency room or hospital and could easily be isolated in an emergency due to its mountains and canyons.
“The city, basically, [through] Davis, told me to leave them alone,” Dorodny said. He quoted Davis as saying, “‘whatever your issues are, they’re with the Coast Guard; they’re with the Fire Department.'”
Davis referred questions to Lichtig, who confirmed that the city contracts its paramedic and fire services from the county Fire Department and does not have the authority to train doctors to act in emergencies. She said Davis’ job was to facilitate communication between the various contracting entities, like fire and sheriff’s departments, and educate the public.
“We’re not attempting to do anything except enhance coordination,” Lichtig said. “The city is committed to providing the resources that we have the responsibility to provide in a disaster.”
The city’s Public Works Department would handle infrastructure emergencies such as road problems, Lichtig said, but the “first responder” in most disasters would be the Fire Department. If local services were saturated, the Fire Department would have the authority to request aid from a state response system and the County Department of Health, she said.
Reginald Lee, the assistant county fire chief who is based in Malibu, agreed that Malibu is prepared for disaster because outside help would come by air or land if the city became isolated.
Lee said Malibu has helicopters, including a four-seat Black Hawk, at its disposal, “but if we needed more we could always get them … the Fire Department would handle an emergency, as we always do.”
The city stocks supplies for 250 people and a three-day fuel reserve for an emergency generator, according to the city’s written emergency plan and information provided by Lichtig, but the responsibility for distributing supplies would lie with the Fire Department.
Dorodny said he would take the city’s advice and bring his concerns to the Fire Department. He said he could proceed with his MMRC without city cooperation because he has 22 volunteers, some of them doctors from neighboring cities, and plans to fund his organization with donations and grants.
“And you know why I’ll do it,” he said. “I’ll do it to protect myself and my family, and my neighbors and all the residents of Malibu.”
Dorodny said one private donor, apparently as disenchanted with the city as Dorodny, had specified that he would contribute only if the MMRC had no link to the city.
Mud keeps flying
Although they may have agreed to go their separate ways, the mudslinging between Dorodny and city officials has only gotten messier since the botched meeting.
City Council members have publicly questioned Dorodny’s motives, suggesting that the newcomer-Dorodny has lived in Malibu since spring-is trying to solicit city funds or sell something, while Dorodny has issued a cry to recall the council members, saying they have ignored their “fiduciary duty” to protect their constituents’ health.
Dorodny said he is shocked at the resistance he has encountered creating a voluntary organization that he says is not selling or soliciting anything.
“I wouldn’t even take a postage stamp from them [the city,]” he said.