The refusal of a nurse to perform CPR on an 87-year-old woman at a Bakersfield, Calif., elderly living facility has prompted outrage and a criminal investigation.
A 911 operator pleaded for the staffer to render aid to the dying woman or find someone else who could be instructed over the phone to perform CPR, but the nurse said company policy prohibited her from taking action and there was no one else in the area who could help.
Lorraine Bayless had collapsed Feb. 26 in the dining room of Glenwood Gardens, a retirement home that offers many levels of care. Bayless resided in the independent-living building, which state official said is like a senior apartment complex and doesn't operate under licensing oversight.
Administrators of assisted, independent and skilled nursing facilities in Highlands County said this type of incident would be handled differently at their facility.
Maranatha Manor Administrator Amy Vankleeck said, "That would never happen here."
"I can't imagine setting a blanket policy that says you are not, under no circumstance, going to provide any kind of medical help."
Assisted living facilities in Florida are required to have someone on staff at all times who is certified in CPR, she noted. "Even though most of my residents have 'do not resuscitate' orders, I am required to have a staff member on site who is able to administer CPR for those who do want it."
Fairway Pines at Sun 'N Lake Director Madeira Doran said, "I was surprised because we have to have so many of our aides and nurses trained in CPR according to our state regulations."
Also, Fairway Pines has a defibrillator in the lobby, she added.
Primarily an "assisted living" facility, Fairway Pines does have some "independent living" residents who have "pull cords" to summon assistance and the nurses go check on them, Doran said.
Lake Placid Healthcare Center Administrator David Smith said he has never managed an independent living facility so he couldn't say what protocols they operate under.
Commenting on the CPR refusal story from California, Smith said, "A company sets up a policy and sometimes you agree with it and sometimes you don't, but there are reasons for them. From what the nurse was saying she was certainly following her instructions, never to initiate or perform it [CPR] and to wait for EMTs to come."
Lake Placid Healthcare is a 180-bed skilled nursing facility.
"We are nursing; we do CPR as long as everything is in place for that to be done," Smith said.
The Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration [FAHA] licenses state healthcare facilities including nursing homes, skilled nursing units and assisted living facilities.
The FAHA does not license or oversee independent living facilities.
An FAHA staff member said the Department of Business and Professional Regulation oversees independent living facilities.
Business and Professional Regulation Director of Communications Sandi Copes Poreda said if there is no medical staff on hand to assist residents and the residents are living in individual units, the establishment would be licensed as an apartment.
"However, our jurisdiction extends only to the safety and sanitation of the common areas," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.