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Woman Dies after Nurse Refuses to give CPR

Nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report of a troubling incident involving a California woman who passed away after a facility nurse refused to give her CPR. Police are currently investigating the incident.

The 87-year-old woman, a resident at Glenwood Gardens in Bakersfield, California, collapsed onto the floor of the facility dining room on February 26, 2013. Facility staff called 911 to get help for the woman, who was barely breathing. The dispatcher routing the call, Tracey Halvorson, urged the nurse on duty to begin CPR immediately to save the woman’s life. The nurse refused, citing the emergency policy of Glenwood Gardens.

Halverson has worked at the county dispatcher center for at least ten years, and assured the nurse that the facility would not be sued if anything went wrong while administering CPR. The call transcript showed that Halverson specifically told the nurse that the local medical emergency system would take all liability. Still, the nurse refused.

The call lasted seven minutes, 16 seconds, during which time Halverson pleaded with the nurse to find someone, anyone, who was willing to help the senior resident. Halverson asked her to find a gardener, or even a stranger on the street to save the woman’s life, stating she would guide someone through performing CPR. Dispatchers give CPR instructions over the phone regularly. The nurse again refused to identify anyone who could potentially help her.

The Kern County Fire Department Deputy Chief, Michael Miller, stated that it is not uncommon for people to refuse to give CPR, usually because they do not know how, or are so upset they cannot think clearly. Miller said this call was unique, however, because the nurse was clearly trained, calm, and able to give CPR.

Seven minutes after the emergency call was made, firefighters and ambulance personnel arrived at the facility. The woman did not have a pulse, and by that time had stopped breathing completely. Emergency personnel started CPR immediately and loaded the woman onto a gurney. She was declared dead at Mercy Southwest Hospital.

Jeffrey Toomer, the executive director of Glenwood Gardens, stated that the nurse was indeed following company policy by refusing to give CPR. He stated that residents of the community are informed of this policy and must agree to it before they move in. Glenwood Gardens is an independent living community, which means that it follows different rules and is held to different standards than assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.

Toomer stated that, in the event of an emergency at the facility, policy is to call emergency personnel for assistance and wait for their arrival with the affected individual. Facility employees are not allowed to intervene into the situation until the emergency personnel arrive, presumably to avoid liability if anything were to happen. Toomer stated that the facility will conduct an internal review of the incident.

The executive director of the American Nurses Association in California stated that if the woman is indeed a registered nurse, the policy is irrelevant. The incident sparked a criminal investigation and prompted calls for political actions to prevent a similar situation from taking place again. The Glenwood Gardens independent living facility does not operate under licensing oversight, as skilled nursing facilities do, and is therefore subject to different rules and regulations for care. Some are calling this death a wakeup call, and are disheartened that it took such a tragic situation to bring these deficiencies to public attention.

Senior abuse and neglect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are concerned that such an event was allowed to take place under facility policy. If you or someone you love was the victim of similar neglect or abuse, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to compensation for your losses and suffering.