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High Desert reacts to Calif. CPR-refusal tragedy

By Mackenzie Wilson
Published On: Mar 11 2013 01:13:49 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 05 2013 01:54:22 PM CST

NewsChannel 21's Mackenzie Wilson reports as an independent living facility in California comes under fire from a fatal decision by a nurse who refused to give a resident CPR.

BEND, Ore. -

Desperation is common in 911 calls. But last Tuesday in Bakersfield Calif., it was the dispatcher who was in angst.

"She's going to die if we don't get this started. Do you understand?" the dispatcher said.

The 911 dispatcher was talking with a nurse at the Glenwood Gardens independent living facility. An 87-year-old woman lay dying as the conversation went on for seven minutes.

"As a human being, I don't -- I mean, is there anyone there that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?" the dispatcher asked.

The nurse's response is not what you'd expect.

"Um, not at this time," the nurse said.

The nurse told the dispatcher she wanted to help, but it was against their policy. In California, independent living facilities, unlike nursing homes, are not legally required to give medical aid.

The owner of Right at Home care for seniors in Bend, Julie Burket, says it's the same here in Oregon.

"Independent living facilities are just like big apartment complexes, with someone to do cooking and cleaning for you," Burket said Monday.

Burket empathized with everyone involved in the incident, saying she knows how strict state laws and regulations can be when it comes to caring for the elderly.

"if you don't follow the state guidelines you are in big trouble," Burket said. "We get audited every few years to make sure that we are abiding by the rules."

However, the rule the nurse was following is reportedly a corporate policy for Glenwood Gardens.

"I'm appalled that the nurse decided not to do CPR," said Todd Sensenbach, whose business provides in-home care for seniors in Central Oregon.

He told NewsChannel 21 that if Home Instead caregivers run into trouble, their policy is the same as many independent living facilities.

"Our first thing is, always call 911," said Sensenbach. "And if we're on the phone with a 911 operator, Home Instead has no policy that says we can't do CPR."

Rob Poirier, Deschutes 911 director, says if the nurse couldn't legally start CPR -- she should have found someone else to step in.

"The dispatcher was desperate to get anyone to help render aid," said Poirier. "Really, our training and our protocol is designed to allow us to instruct people with no experience."

Poirier says the only acceptable reason for the nurse to refuse doing CPR on the woman was if she had a "Do Not Resuscitate" order. Reports Monday suggested that was not the case.

If you're concerned about a loved one, now the time to act.

"I'd be calling them and asking them, 'Do you have a policy on CPR?'" Sensenbach said.

NewsChannel 21 spoke with many representatives of several independent living facilities in Bend Monday. All of them said they could provide CPR and first aid unless there were specific orders not to.

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