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Senior community defends nurse who refused CPR for dying resident

March 4, 2013
by Patricia Sheehan, Editor-in-Chief
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Glenwood Gardens, Bakersfield, Calif., a Brookdale Senior Living independent living community, is defending one of its nurses who refused pleas by a 911 operator to perform CPR on an elderly woman who later died, saying the nurse was following policy, according to a report by the Associated Press.

"Is there anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die," dispatcher Tracey Halvorson says on a 911 tape released by the Bakersfield Fire Department and aired on KGET Channel 17’s website Sunday.

"Not at this time," said the nurse, who didn't give her full name and said facility policy prevented her from giving the woman medical help.

According to the AP report, at the beginning of the February 26 morning call, the nurse asked for paramedics to come and help the 87-year-old woman who had collapsed in the community's dining room and was barely breathing.

Halvorson pleads for the nurse to perform CPR, and after several refusals she starts pleading for her to find a resident, or a gardener, or anyone not employed by the community to get on the phone, take her instructions and help the woman.

"Can we flag someone down in the street and get them to help this lady?" Halvorson says on the call. "Can we flag a stranger down? I bet a stranger would help her."

The woman was later declared dead at Mercy Southwest Hospital, officials said.

The executive director of Glenwood Gardens, Jeffrey Toomer, defended the nurse's actions, saying she did indeed follow policy.

"In the event of a health emergency at this independent living community our practice is to immediately call emergency medical personnel for assistance and to wait with the individual needing attention until such personnel arrives," Toomer said in a written statement. "That is the protocol we followed."

Toomer offered condolences to the woman's family in the statement and said a "thorough internal review" of the incident would be conducted.

He told KGET-TV that residents of the home's independent living community are informed of the policy and agree to it when they move in. He said the policy does not apply at the adjacent assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.

Visitors to Glenwood Gardens said they were withholding judgment Sunday, according to a report in The Bakersfield Californian. Visitors driving in and out of Glenwood Sunday afternoon insisted that the center provides quality care, though some were divided over whether staff did the right thing in this case, according to the newspaper.

A Glenwood resident who identified himself only as George said residents and staff are not supposed to administer CPR, much less try to lift up someone in distress, according to the report.

"You call 911" and ask for emergency responders to assist the person, he said.

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