Houston retirement home policies scrutinized following CA death

March 4, 2013 3:55:52 PM PST
It may not have been illegal, but was it morally wrong? A nurse in California refused to perform CPR on an elderly resident of a retirement home. The woman died.

The home says it was a matter of company policy. The 911 calls that have been released have many shaking their heads. Now Eyewitness News has learned the California company has a retirement community right here in Houston.

It's a compelling 911 call that is raising questions about retirement home policies some say violate moral judgment.

"We can't wait," said the 911 dispatcher. "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."

Lorraine Bayless, 87, collapsed at the Glenwood Gardens. She was a resident of the independent living facility in California. The nurse on duty wouldn't help with CPR because it's against company policy.

The 911 dispatcher asked, "Is there anybody there that is willing to help this lady and not let her die?"

"Not at this time," the nurse responded.

Bayless was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Joy Nell Harper of the Texas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents says that policy is not unique in our litigious society.

"They don't want to be liable," Harper explained. "They could say you didn't do it right, you know different things. They just don't want to be sued."

Glenwood Gardens has another independent living facility in southwest Houston -- the Terrace. The company is defending their nurse and released this statement: "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."

Harper believes this national debate needs to spark changes at the state level.

"They need to have rules and laws, that people who do not take care of those people, because they are paying to be taking care of, they need to prosecute them," she said. "There needs to be some accountability."

Bayless's daughter has been quoted as saying she is satisfied with the level of care her mother received.

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