Bakersfield fire dispatcher Tracey Halvorson pleaded with the woman on the other end of the line to start CPR on an elderly woman who was barely breathing.
"It's a human being," Halvorson said, speaking quickly. "Is there anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?"
The woman paused.
"Um, not at this time."
According to a 911 tape released by the Bakersfield Fire Department, the woman told Halvorson that she was a nurse at Glenwood Gardens, a senior living facility in Bakersfield. But the nurse refused to give the woman CPR as directed by the dispatcher, saying it was against the facility's policy for staff to do so, according to the tape.
The elderly woman was identified by KGET-TV Channel 17 as 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless. She died Tuesday at Mercy Southwest Hospital, the station reported.
Jeffrey Toomer, executive director of Glenwood Gardens, issued a statement on behalf of the facility, extending his sympathies to the Bayless family. But Toomer also defended the nurse, saying she followed 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," he said. "That is the protocol we followed. As with any incident involving a resident, we will conduct a thorough internal review of this matter, but we have no further comments at this time."
On the tape, a different Glenwood Gardens employee said that an elderly woman had passed out in the facility's dining room while eating. She was barely breathing and, according to KGET-TV, did not have a do-not-resuscitate order.
For the next several minutes, Halvorson begged the nurse to begin CPR, saying something had to be done before an ambulance arrived.
After the nurse repeatedly refused, Halvorson asked her to find a passerby or anyone who would be willing to help. Halvorson said she would talk someone through performing CPR.
"I understand if your facility is not willing to do that," Halvorson told the nurse. "Give the phone to that passerby, that stranger … this woman's not breathing enough.... She's going to die if we don't get this started.... I don't understand why you're not willing to help this patient."
The nurse could be heard talking to someone else at the facility.
"She's yelling at me," she said of Halvorson, "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."
When Halvorson asked the nurse if she was going to let the woman die, the nurse said, "That's why we called 911."
After a few minutes, the nurse said the ambulance had arrived. The tape ended with Halvorson sighing.
Bakersfield Fire Battalion Chief Anthony Galagaza said that Halvorson followed protocol and that dispatchers give CPR instructions over the phone numerous times each year.
Bayless' daughter told KGET that she was a nurse and was satisfied with her mother's care at Glenwood Gardens, the station reported.