Calif. woman dies after nurse refuses to perform CPR
Retirement home officials say nurse followed policy
A dispatcher followed general protocols when she pleaded with a nurse at an independent living facility to perform CPR on a woman who later died in California, a county official said Monday.
Earlier, Glenwood Gardens had defended its nurse, saying she also had followed policy in dealing with the 87-year-old patient.
At the beginning of the Feb. 26 call, the nurse asked for paramedics to come and help the woman who had collapsed and was barely breathing, according to a transcript of the call.
Dispatcher Tracey Halvorson urged the nurse to start CPR.
"I understand if your boss is telling you you can't do it," the dispatcher said. "But ... as a human being ... you know . is there anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?"
"Not at this time," the nurse answered.
During the 7-minute, 16-second call, Halvorson assured the nurse that Glenwood couldn't be sued if anything went wrong with CPR, saying the local emergency medical system "takes the liability for this call," the transcript states.
Later in the call, Halvorson asks, "Is there a gardener? Any staff . anyone who doesn't work for you? Anywhere? Can we flag someone down in the street and get them to help this lady? Can we flag a stranger down? I bet a stranger would help her."
Kern County Fire Department spokesman Sean Collins said Halvorson had more passion in her voice than normal because she thought she was talking with a registered nurse who was refusing to save the woman's life.
"In her mind she had an RN there who was refusing to assist this lady," Collins said. "In this situation she felt the person needed to do something because she's in the same business as us, which is saving lives."
Halvorson is an experienced dispatcher and has worked for the county center for at least a decade. Collins said.
The woman was later declared dead at Mercy Southwest Hospital.
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 and said a thorough internal review of the incident would be conducted.
He told KGET-TV that residents of the facility 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.
A call to the facility by The Associated Press seeking more information was not immediately returned.
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