A recording of a 911 call released last week portrayed a Bakersfield Fire Department dispatcher's stressed, unsuccessful efforts to get a nurse at Glenwood Gardens, a retirement center and nursing home, to give CPR to an unconscious, elderly woman.
During the tense seven-minute audio recording posted on KGET Channel 17's website, the dispatcher forcefully pleaded with a nurse, repeatedly asking if there was anyone who would do CPR if the nurse could not.
"Is there anybody there that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?" the dispatcher asked at one point, to which the nurse responded, "Um, not at this time."
KGET reported that 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless collapsed at the retirement center Tuesday and died at a local hospital that same day. KGET cited a fire department report as saying that the woman was in apparent cardiac arrest.
In a statement sent Saturday, Jeffrey Toomer, the executive director of the west Bakersfield facility, expressed condolences to the resident's family and appreciation for the "emergency personnel" who responded to the crisis.
"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. That is the protocol we followed," Tommer wrote in the statement.
The 911 call opened with women telling the dispatcher that a woman in her 80s in the dining room at Glenwood Gardens had apparently fainted while she was eating. One woman told the dispatcher that the senior was not awake and barely breathing.
The dispatcher told the woman on the line to get Bayless flat on her back on the ground and asked for the phone to stay next to the unconscious woman. Less than a minute later, a nurse came on the phone and said she was heading to the dining room from her office.
"We can't wait. I keep telling people this. I don't know who's passed the phone again, I need that phone next to the patient immediately. She's possibly not breathing, OK? So I need someone to run over there immediately, please," the dispatcher said.
The nurse said Bayless was on the ground breathing very slowly and timed her breaths for the dispatcher but when the dispatcher said they needed to start CPR, the nurse said, "Yeah, we can't do CPR ..."
The dispatcher countered that anybody there could do CPR.
"I understand if you, if your facility is not willing to do that, give the phone to that passerby, that stranger," the dispatcher said. "This woman's not breathing enough, she's gonna die if we don't get this started. D'ya understand?"
"I understand. I am a nurse, but I cannot have our other senior citizens who don't know CPR ... we're in a dining room. I, I cannot do that," the nurse responded slowly while the dispatcher sharply interjected, talking over the nurse to say that she could instruct someone how to perform the maneuver.
The dispatcher told the nurse she would walk her through the process, adding that "EMS takes the liability for this."
"She's yelling at me and saying that we have to have one of our other residents perform CPR ... I'm not gonna do that," the nurse said, speaking to someone off the phone.
The dispatcher asked if anyone who worked at the facility was willing to do CPR and when the nurse said, "We can't do that. That's what I'm trying to say," the dispatcher responded, "We're gonna let this lady die?"
"Well that's why we're calling 911, I'm sorry," the nurse said.
"We can't wait! She can't wait right now. She is stopping breathing. She can't wait for them to get there," the dispatcher pleaded.
When the dispatcher urged the nurse again to get CPR started, the nurse replied, "He's saying we don't so you can talk to my boss and I'm, I don't know what to say."
"They're refusing CPR, they're gonna let her die," the dispatcher said.
"When will the fire department be here? When will the ambulance be here?" the nurse asked.
"They're coming as quick, they've been on the way all this time but we can't wait, this lady's gonna die," the dispatcher said.
"Yeah," the nurse replied quietly.
The dispatcher said she understood if the nurse's boss wouldn't let her do CPR, but asked again if there were was anyone else willing to help.
"Is there a gardener or any staff, anybody that doesn't work for you anywhere? Can we flag someone down in the street and get them to help this lady?" the dispatcher demanded. "Can we flag a stranger down? I bet a stranger will help her. I'm pretty good at talking 'em into it, if you can flag a stranger down I will help, I will help tell them how to help her."
Seconds later, first responders arrived.
"They're here right now," the nurse said.
"Alright," the dispatcher replied, sighing before she began to recite numbers and the recording cut off.
Toomer, the facility's director, wrote in his emailed statement that an internal review will be conducted, but declined to give any further comment.