Local doctors and city officials say the city is prepared for emergencies, but have agreed to meet with a new Malibu doctor who has been firing incendiary comments toward the city’s emergency preparedness programs. Council members have expressed discontent at a newcomer challenging what they see as exemplary service.
By Susan Reines/Special to The Malibu Times
Local doctors and city officials will gather this week to discuss face to face, for the first time, accusations one doctor has made that the city is a virtual death trap because it has not taken adequate steps to prepare for emergencies.
Dr. Victor Dorodny, a Malibu resident since last spring, founded the Malibu Medical Reserve Corps to fill what he sees as a gaping hole in emergency preparedness. Dorodny says he attempted to form a partnership between his MMRC and the city, but when the city issued a press release defending its preparedness, Dorodny accused the release of being “full of lies” and has since upped his rhetoric to a higher pitch.
At the heart of the matter is Dorodny’s claim that the city has not mobilized and trained local doctors for emergencies, leaving Malibu with a vacuum of technicians and supplies in the event of a disaster. The city’s full-time emergency preparedness coordinator, Brad Davis, counters that the city began meeting with doctors long ago and has an organized network in place.
The local doctors at the center of this struggle will meet with MMRC representatives the first time this week. Dorodny himself will not attend because he accepted a government assignment to help with Florida’s hurricane disaster.
In interviews prior to the meeting, doctors expressed satisfaction with current emergency preparedness and, in some cases, annoyance at Dorodny’s aggressive attacks on the city, but they also indicated willingness to listen to Dorodny and consider the merits of his MMRC.
Doctor David Baron, founder of Primary Caring of Malibu, said the city “has a very solid medical response base,” contrary to Dorodny’s claims that patients risk missing the “golden hour” within which treatment is vital because they must travel to Santa Monica for some types of treatment.
“The paramedic service in Malibu has been outstanding and I’ve been practicing for 12 years,” Baron said. “I’ve never seen a case where someone needed paramedic service and it wasn’t there in a jiffy.”
Paramedics’ average response time in Malibu is 4 minutes and 11 seconds, according to the most recent data available, said Maria Grycan, representative for the Fire Department. Dorodny has emphasized that response time in Santa Monica is 90 seconds.
Baron said he believed the city was also ready for larger-scale disaster because it is plugged into county and state response networks.
“When Malibu is cut off, the outside community usually comes in to help us. There’s access by water; there are helicopters,” he said, though he said the city could face a challenge if an enormous disaster saturated outside services.
Assistant Fire Chief Reginald Lee confirmed that outside help was available, saying Malibu owned helicopters, “but if we needed more we could always get them … the Fire Department would handle an emergency, as we always do.”
Despite the confidence he expressed in preparedness, Baron said there “hasn’t yet been a lot of follow-through” with the city’s organization of doctors and said, “We’re all anxious to hear what Dr. Dorodny has to say. We all want to work together.”
Dr. Jeff Harris, like Baron, said he was impressed with Malibu paramedic service and was “skeptical at this point about the need” to purchase a mobile hospital unit, as Dorodny has urged.
“Certainly I’m more than willing to talk to him [Dorodny] and hear his ideas,” Harris said. “But I think all this would be better served under the banner of the city and the county.”
Neither Harris nor Baron had spoken with Dorodny. Dorodny said Davis had asked him to refrain from contacting doctors before the meeting, but said he had been approached by veterinarian Kay Fransen, who volunteered to open her clinic during an emergency, and by Dr. Jill Furgurson of Malibu Urgent Care.
Fransen confirmed that she volunteered to help Dorodny, saying, “There’s no down side to it.” Furgurson was unavailable for comment.
The City Council voted to purchase six defibrillators, devices that can resuscitate heart attack victims, on Monday. City Manager Katie Lichtig said the city had long been investigating the purchase and it bore “no relation” to Dorodny’s attacks.
There was debate at the meeting when Robert Donin, MMRC Director of Government and Legislative Affairs, made statements suggesting MMRC might be selling defibrillators.
Donin said the council should consider buying defibrillators other than those recommended by the Fire Department-possibly “from us.” He insisted in an interview later that MMRC was not peddling anything. “We’re not endorsing anybody [any defibrillator manufacturer]. We’re not selling anything,” he said.
Donin’s immediate departure after speaking, instead of staying to hear Davis and Lee speak about preparedness, also raised questions.
Mayor Pro Tem Andy Stern said, “I’ve got to believe that if he had any interest in emergency preparedness, he would have stayed.”
“Neither one of these people [Dorodny and Donin] have seen the emergency preparedness in Malibu. I have,” Stern said, recalling the emergency team rushing to the site of a recent plane collision and fending off fires last year.