SAN DIEGO, March 5, 2013 ― What should have been an ordinary trip to the retirement home dining room turned into a nightmare, the last one 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless would ever experience.
The treatment of this poor woman at Glenwood Gardens in Bakersfield, California marks an even greater nightmare for the moral bankruptcy of our once great nation. When Bayless suddenly collapsed, a nurse employee of Glenwood Gardens promptly called 911, asking for an ambulance. So far, so good, but when the 911 dispatcher asked the nurse if she was performing CPR, the nurse informed her that according to policy, she would not. Here is a portion of the chilling, seven-minute, sixteen-second phone call.
Dispatcher: OK, is there anyone there who is willing to help this patient?
Caller: I am, but…
Dispatcher: OK great, then I’ll walk you through it all. EMS takes the liability for this, Colleen. I’m happy to … OK? This is EMS protocol. OK?
Caller: (To someone off the phone) I don’t know where he is. She’s yelling at me to have one of our other residents perform CPR. And I’m not gonna do that, and make that call.
Dispatcher: Colleen, is there anyone that works there that’s willing to do it?
Caller: We can’t do that.
Dispatcher: Are we just gonna let this lady die?
Caller: Well that’s why we’re calling 911.
Dispatcher: We can’t wait. She can’t wait right now. She is stopping breathing. She can’t wait for them to get there.
Caller: She’s taken three breaths.
Dispatcher: It’s not enough. We need to get CPR started.
Caller: (Chatter in background) He’s saying we don’t. You can talk to my boss, and I don’t know what to say.
Dispatcher: OK. (To someone off phone.) They’re refusing CPR, they’re gonna let her die. By the facility, yeah.
Caller: When will the fire department be here? When will the ambulance …
Dispatcher: They’re coming. They’ve been on the way all this time but we can’t wait. This lady’s gonna die.
Dispatcher: OK, well then if you get anybody, any stranger that happens to walk by that’s willing to help. I understand if your boss is telling you can’t do it. But if there’s any human being. … Is there anyone that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?
Caller: Um, not at this time.
Such interesting words, “Not at this time.” They sound as casual as a coffee shop waitress saying, “I’ll be right with you.”
But the words are also chilling. In this case, “Not at this time” means “Never.”
According to ABC News, “State officials did not know Monday whether the woman who talked to the 911 dispatcher actually was a nurse, or just identified herself as one during the call.”
In a written statement, Jeffrey Toomer, executive director of Glenwood Gardens defended his employee. “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. That is the protocol we followed.”
Toomer continued his defense by saying that all residents are informed about their policy and must agree to it before moving in.
Toomer did offer condolences to Bayless’ family. What a relief! It seemed at first that no one at Glenwood Gardens took life and death situations seriously. I don’t know what people are paying them to care for their senior parents, but whatever the amount, we can safely conclude it is too much!
Ironically, Bayless’ daughter told local KGET-TV she was “satisfied with the care her mother received.” One has to wonder what it would take for her to become unsatisfied.
Supposedly there is a difference between a nursing home and the “independent living facilities” of Glenwood Gardens. Dr. Susan Leonard, a geriatrics authority from the University of California, Los Angeles attempted to offer some clarification: “These are like apartments for seniors. You’re basically living on your own. They may have some services provided by basic nursing staff, but it’s not their responsibility to care for the individual.”
If legal action is taken, the attorneys of Glenwood Gardens will slice and dice the difference between a nursing home and “independent living facilities.” It will also be proven that the nurse really did honor her employer’s policy and that residents were informed of the rules in advance. Legal bureaucracy does a terrific job of whitewashing shameful facts: An 87-year-old woman was denied CPR. Had she been given CPR, she might have lived. How tragic, when policy takes on a life of its own, snuffing out honest–to-goodness human life in the process.
Last summer, a similar event had a much different outcome. Florida lifeguard, Tomas Lopez was fired for saving a life. Rescuing a drowning man is supposedly the whole idea behind lifeguards. But Lopez left his post to assist a swimmer in a different zone! The nerve! Evidently Lopez’s moral compass told him some things are worth being fired for. If the Glenwood Gardens nurse has any conscience at all, she will ponder this same idea for the rest of her days.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Bob sometimes selects reader’s comments and responds to them on his radio show. Details of his program can be found at www.bobsiegel.net.
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