Woman Dies After Care Facility Staff Member Refuses To Perform CPR


Nursing homes are a scary prospect to some. Allowing your dear relatives to be in the care of a facility, including many rotating employees whom you know nothing about, is a frightening idea. What if they are abusive? What if something happens and they’re unknowledgeable? What if they’re simply unpleasant? Fortunately, most nursing homes for the elderly are fantastic, filled with intelligent, qualified employees who enjoy their jobs and the people they care for. However, the case of a recent nursing home death in Bakersfield, California, will likely be raising questions regarding the emergency policies of many of these care facilities.

In the disturbing recording of a 911 call between fire dispatcher Tracey Halvorson and an employee at the Glenwood Gardens nursing facility in Bakersfield, Halvorson is heard repeatedly pleading with the woman to perform CPR on a female resident who was barely breathing. Halvorson continuously tells the nurse that if she doesn’t do this, the woman will die. The nurse states that it is against Glenwood Gardens’ rules for staff to give CPR despite Halvorson’s repeated pleas insisting that the procedure can be started before emergency personnel arrive on the scene, as well as begging her to find somebody who doesn’t work for the facility so he or she could perform CPR instead. The nurse declined, and could be heard speaking to somebody else at the facility saying that Halvorson was making her feel stressed. A few minutes later, an ambulance arrived and the tape ended. The woman died later at the hospital.

After controversy arose following the 911 call’s circulation, Glenwood Gardens released the following statement:

In the event of a health emergency at this independent living community our practice is to immediately call emergency personell for assistance and to wait with the individual until such personnel arrives.

While it makes sense to disallow employees from doing surgical procedures, performing CPR should not be against rules. When you are entrusting the life of a human being into the supervision and care of a facility with trained staff, there’s a certain expectation that the home and its employees will keep members as safe and cared for as possible. What about the Heimlich maneuver? What about anxiety or asthma attacks? What about responses to allergic reactions? There are certain helpful medical responses that any human being can do for another, all of which can be explained to them by an emergency dispatcher. Sadly, it may take this death for nursing home facilities to question these practices. But what do you readers think: was this tragedy preventable or should these rules stay in place?

Photo: Shutterstock

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    • Donwalle

      The none-responsive “nurse” and the management of Glenwood Gardens should be brought up on charges for Murder and the facility needs to have its license revoked. IF that “Nurse” has a license it needs to be revoked and she needs to be held accountable for her un-professional behavior. Any REAL nurse would have jumped to this woman’s assistance by force of habit gained through extensive training. At least that is what I would expect of a trained healthcare professional and the main reason that I would choose to stay at skilled nursing facility. This place calls its self a “Skilled Nursing Facility” but this incident shows that either the Management is NOT hiring skilled nurses or has them so fearful of loosing their jobs that they ignore their basic training. OBVIOUSLY this is NOT a facility to trust with ANY aging patients. Does this facility require every new patient to sign a Do-Not-Resusitate Order? Without that type of signed consent the standard of practice in this country is that every Medical Professional is required, not necessarily by law but by the ethics of the medical profession, to provide life-saving assistance such as CPR. IF a Do-Not-Resusitate Order was in place then why call 911? A facility with internal rules that contradict this ethical code of conduct should not be allowed to exist. The problem of Skilled Nursing Facilities NOT providing a professional level of care is a growing one and this is just one example of how deadly this problem gets. In fact to put such a policy in place then claim to be a Skilled Nursing Facility seems to me to be a false advertising claim that should be inspected by the Federal Trade Commission. SOMEBODY needs to be looking into these anti-skilled nursing facilities that kill people every day.

      • http://twitter.com/JohnDThorpe John Thorpe

        According to others, she had a DNR order, which meant she did not wish to be resuscitated. Had they performed CPR, the nurse would have been arrested on assault charges and the facility would have been liable for civil damages.

        Their protocol was to contact 911 in any emergency situation. The DNR covers the facility and its employees. Depending on the state law (each state has its own laws), the EMT could either be covered by the DNR or, more likely given that the protocol here is to contact 911, not covered by the DNR.

        Still others have commented that the family was satisfied with the care, indicating that they did have a DNR in place and the DNR was followed per the elderly woman’s wishes.

        If either of these things are incorrect, then we have a different story, but from what I have seen, everyone acted accordingly — except for the media, which chose to sensationalize a story where no wrong was committed and earned a profit by forcing the family to relive the death of their loved one.

    • http://www.facebook.com/teralee.bird Teralee Sampson

      Well it is not a nursing home, as I understand it, but rather a retirement home, with no obligation to provide medical assistance. The author of the story appears to have mislabeled it as a nursing care facility.

      The obligation to render aid comes as a HUMAN BEING to help another in distress. When is a LIFE not more important than your job, you complacent twit? It was oh so disgustingly easy to hear absolutely NO worry, concern or care in your voice, no panic whatsoever.

      Where has Empathy gone in this world?

      No doubt lady, the earth would be cracking if it had been YOUR mother and someone like YOU had allowed HER to die….

    • http://www.facebook.com/mdpugh Michelle Pugh

      How ignorant is that?! What have the Red Cross spent years doing, but educating the public how to perform CPR, because people in respiratory or cardiac arrest cannot wait for first responders to arrive. Being a health care facility, they should not have to be told this, they should not even be licensed with a policy like this. This facility should be shut down immediately. Both ignorant and stupid, no excuse!

    • thoughful person

      There are been several updates online about this story. One update states that the woman had a standing DNR order/request and if this is correct then doing CPR would be a violation and the staff could have been charged with assault. Also a least 1 reporter spoke with the daughter who stated that she had no problem with the care provided to her mother. Why should this family have their private business made public because of a 911 call? The family does not have to provide details of their 87 year old mother’s health. The public is getting upset about a based on a recording. I would be more concerned if the family had expressed issues with the care.

    • http://twitter.com/AshODonnell Ashley O’Donnell

      From someone who works in a nursing home. it’s easy to judge the nurse and in a lot of ways I am. There are lots of ridiculous protocol out there–not even allowed to Neosporin on cuts without a doctor’s order, etc. So from that perspective, it’s easy to see that she was afraid of losing her license and getting fired for performing CPR. You’re placed in a high stress situation & your training fails you.

      But it still doesn’t excuse the nurse. As long as the woman didn’t have a DNR (do not resuscitate), it’s still her obligation as a health professional to save her patient’s life. There’s still such thing as ethics, and in those situations it reigns over annoying things like protocol.

      But if she did have DNR, the public shouldn’t get into such an uproar. The patient and her doctors placed that order knowing this was a possibility. It’s the quality of health care delivery that matters most.

    • care giver

      HELLO… do your homework before writing your story. This was NOT a nursing home. It is basically apartment living for independent elderly people who congregate to share meals (if they wish), go on outings, etc. I am a nurse, and I am reminded all too often than none of us will live forever. This beautiful lady was 87 years old, and had a DNR order, so she did not want to be revived. I care for many elderly people who are DNR, and although we treat infections and other diseases, if their heart stops or they stop breathing, I do not/will not attempt resuscitation. I will hold their hand and give comfort. Please stop bothering the family, they are going through enough.

    • Sarah

      I don’t think staff should have any obligation to perform CPR.