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Bakersfield 911 call: Inaction = death

March is only four days old, but this month’s “man’s inhumanity to man” award goes to Glenwood Gardens and the folks who work there. The senior living facility in Bakersfield, Calif., has a policy of calling 911 in emergencies and waiting with the afflicted until medical assistance arrives. But the lack of urgency — the seeming indifference of the personnel to the 87-year-old woman who collapsed in the dining room Feb. 26 — is stunning.

The Bakersfield Fire Department released the 911 call on Saturday is simply chilling. For seven minutes, the 911 operator tried to get someone, anyone, to administer CPR to Lorraine Bayless as she lay on the floor barely breathing.

Dispatcher: I understand if your boss is telling you you can’t do it. but if there’s anybody, as a human being, I don’t, you know. Is there anybody that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?
Glenwood Gardens nurse: Not at this time.

The name of the heroic fire dispatcher is Tracey Halvorson. She did everything she could to cajole the lackadaisical nurse (the third person to talk to Halvorson during the ordeal) to spring into action. She even informed the nurse that the local emergency medical system “takes the liability for this call.” No luck.

Is there a gardener or 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.

Meanwhile, the nurse told someone on her end that Halvorson was “yelling at me and saying we have to have one of our residents perform CPR. I’m feeling stressed, and I’m not going to do that, make that call.”

Bayless died at the hospital that same day.

The facility reiterated its 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,” Glenwood Gardens said in a statement. “That is the protocol we followed.”

I know folks live in fear of liability issues and such, but sometimes protocol ought to be broken if it means saving another life. That’s what Tomas Lopez did last July when he saw a man drowning in an unprotected area of the ocean in Hallandale Beach, Fla. He saved the man’s life, but he lost his summer job as a lifeguard in the process because he left his post. What’s the use in having the skill or the job if you’re not allowed use it or do it when it’s needed most?

“I don’t believe if CPR were done it would’ve helped or changed the result,” Bayless’s daughter said in a statement. “This is not about my mother or me, this is about the policy of the facility, and we understood the policy, and I agree with what was done.” Wow, okay. Meanwhile, Glenwood Gardens says it is conducting “an internal review.” A review of its do-nothing policy must be part of that review. And dispatcher Halvorson needs some kind of official commendation from the city of Bakersfield. Her pleading may have fallen on deaf ears, but her palpable compassion for another human being in distress is a fine example of doing what’s right.

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