Raleigh, N.C. — A nurse's refusal to give CPR to a dying 87-year-old woman at a California independent living home, despite desperate pleas from a 911 dispatcher, has prompted outrage and concerns about the policies at similar facilities, including North Carolina.
Lorraine Bayless collapsed Feb. 26 in the dining room of Glenwood Gardens, a retirement home in Bakersfield that offers many levels of care. She lived in the independent living building, which state officials said is like a senior apartment complex and doesn't operate under licensing oversight.
Unlike nursing homes, which provide medical care, independent living facilities generally do not because residents can generally still care for themselves.
During the call, a woman who identified herself as a nurse got on the phone and told the dispatcher that she was not permitted to do CPR on the woman.
The dispatcher urged the nurse to start CPR, warning the consequences could be dire if no one tried to revive the woman, who had been laid out on the floor on her instructions.
"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.
Brookdale Senior Living, the parent company of the California facility owns 56 in the Tar Heel state, including The Heritage of Raleigh independent living community.
Chuck Pierce, executive director of The Heritage, says the facility has a different policy than the California one.
"An associate who is trained to perform CPR can administer medical assistance," Pierce said. "If a staff member is a first responder and is not trained – if they are able – they can follow instructions (of the 911 operator.)"
Many states, including North Carolina, have "Good Samaritan" laws that protect a person from liability who tries to help in a medical emergency if the outcome is not good.
Doug Workman, supervisor for Cary's 911 center, says operators' goals are to walk callers through as much emergency aid as possible.
"We're going to try to convince them to do it," he said.
Wake County EMS District Chief Jeff Hammerstein says patients who get CPR before they arrive to an emergency room have a much better chance of survival.