Malibu Urgent Care receives gift from grateful patient

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The staff at Malibu Urgent Care, from left: Jason Coggins, back office manager; Marina Pech, front office reception; Val Bayliss, front office manager, Karen Canpuzano, X-ray technician; Dr. Jill Furgurson, and Lauren Pike, daughter of Dr. Furgurson. Not pictured is Dr. David Frankle. Photo by Laura Tate / TMT

An out-of-town visitor needed treatment for a fall and discovered “a jewel”-the Malibu Urgent Care center. The grateful patient later donated $10,000 to the center.

By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times

Occasionally the seasonal spirit of giving is triggered by less than auspicious circumstances. Such is the case with the Malibu Urgent Care Center-practically Malibu’s only source of emergency health care.

Malibu Urgent Care, located on Pacific Coast Highway near Webb Way, apparently delivers when called upon. The clinic’s board members were surprised recently when advised of a substantial donation from a nonresident patient, in gratitude for services rendered after an accident while vacationing in Malibu.

Kenneth Zankel of San Francisco was visiting Malibu with his wife last summer when he slipped on a concrete surface by the pool of his rented house and fell at full velocity on his tailbone. Within three days, Zankel said, he had a 12-inch diameter bruise that was “red, yellow, green and purple” and had trouble walking, sitting and sleeping.

In a message to The Malibu Times, Zankel wrote, “I had no doctor nor reference for one in Malibu. Having passed Malibu Urgent Care numerous times, while driving, I decided to take a shot and go there, hoping for the best, but not expecting much from a place on the highway. But I figured they could at least tell me if I broke anything and then I would go to a ‘real’ doctor.”

Dr. David Frankle, a full-time emergency room director for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, immediately treated Zankel, who said Frankle’s evaluation was “thorough, professional, spot-on, honest and courteous,” with the help of a “new, state-of-the-art, zillion dollar X-ray machine.”

Zankel got better. He was so impressed with the quality of his care-particularly considering that he was not a local resident-that he donated $10,000 to the center and wrote a glowing testimonial.

“It occurred to my wife Anna and me that Malibu had a jewel in this facility and its staff, and that it was unfortunate that every town in America did not have such a facility,” Zankel wrote in an email to the urgent care center. “Malibu is extraordinarily fortunate to have Malibu Urgent Care.”

Zankel’s donation is welcome largesse to a facility that almost didn’t survive during the past 15 years, Jack Evans, a Malibu Urgent Care Board member, said.

Evans, director of Global Media Marketing, helped launch the nonprofit foundation Friends of Urgent Care in 2001, after watching the clinic struggle under private ownership for several years.

“Malibu has no other emergency care resource,” Evans said. “Now we have urgent care doctors available seven days a week. These are real emergency room doctors, not just a doc-in-a-box.”

The center, which is staffed by Frankle and Dr. Jill Furgurson, was originally known as the Malibu Emergency Room under Dr. Susan Reynolds in the early ’90s. Dr. Walter O’Brien and Furgurson took over operations in 1994 and, two years later, were close to shutting the doors.

“It was a very difficult time financially,” Frankle said, “so, Rabbi Benjamin Herson [then rabbi of Malibu Synagogue] sat down for a power lunch with the monsignor and Sister Mary Magdelene at St. John’s Hospital and talked about what could be done.”

The multicultural clergy intervention worked and St. John’s Health Care Center bought the clinic in 1997. Four years later, Friends of Malibu Urgent Care was formed.

“I fixed a [ Malibu resident’s] kid’s finger once and he donated $50,000 to the center,” Frankle said. “That put us on the map. Since then, we’ve done lots of good deeds, I guess, and gotten lots of great donations. I’m very blessed to practice in our community. It’s a privilege to work here.”

Frankle, who has lived in Malibu for 15 years, said that donations such as Zankel’s are used to upgrade the facility’s equipment.

“We’ll probably get a new crash cart or defibrillator,” Frankle said. “Considering we are the only urgent care resource for this community, we sorely need these types of donations. It’s part of the problem with health care in this country. There’s no shortage of pathology, just a shortage of reimbursements from insurance companies. Our labor and equipment costs continue to go up, but our compensation goes down.” Evans said the Malibu Bay Company is building a 5,000 square foot upgrade to the facility and that they are looking to put in an MRI machine.

Meanwhile, Zankel’s donation reminded Evans that great gifts sometimes arrive in humble packages. “Sometimes, a fresh pair of eyes can be very impressed by something all of us in our own communities can become so used to,” Zankel wrote. “In this case, those eyes were ours.”