Glenwood Gardens’ policy of not administering CPR causes death of resident
In many of the largest and well-run organizations, public relations is a senior management function whose job is to act as the “eyes, ears, and sometimes the conscience” of an organization.
What does that mean?
The most senior public relations professional sits at the proverbial right-hand of the CEO, and helps to vet all management decisions that can affect reputation, which in turn affect business success. Operations has a lot to do with a company’s reputation. The mistake that some organizations make is thinking that operations has nothing to do with reputation. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The time to fix a bad policy is before that policy sees the light of day.
Good senior PR professionals are trained in handling crisis PR. They know how the media work and what they seize upon. Good PR people spot potential problems and speak up early in the decision-making process when an organization is about to go down a PR rathole. They fly the warning flag.
Here’s a story from just last week that illustrates this.
On Tuesday, February 26, 2013, an 87-year-old woman collapsed in the dining room of Glenwood Gardens, an assisted living facility in Bakersfied California, at around 11 a.m. A staff member called 9-1-1, but refused to give the woman CPR. The woman who collapsed was Mrs. Lorraine Bayless, who later died in Mercy Southwest Hospital.
The Bakersfield Fire Dispatcher, Tracey Halvorson, had an exchange with a nurse, who identified herself as Colleen, at Glenwood Gardens. The 9-1-1 dispatcher repeatedly asked her to perform CPR on Mrs. Bayless. The nurse refused, saying that Glenwood Gardens was an assisted living facility, not a nursing home. As such, their policy was not to administer CPR. In fact, their policy prohibited her from administering CPR.
Mrs. Bayless’ daughter [also a nurse by profession] said she is satisfied with how Glenwood Gardens handled her mother’s collapse. As a point of interest, Mrs. Bayless did not have a “do not resuscitate” order on her file. But Mrs. Bayless’ daughter was not the only one affected by this incident.
And here’s where PR comes in. Consider these:
- 9-1-1 calls are public domain. The media have access to these recordings. And the media know that they are a rich (and free) source of information to fill air time on a slow news day.
- The conversation between dispatcher Halvorson and nurse Colleen went on for more than seven minutes. Many TV stations, including CNN, ran most of the phone call on-air. Networks ABC and NBC also did stories on Glenwood Gardens as well as The LA Times, The Denver Post, and The Chicago Tribune newspapers. Here is the Tribune article: http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/545/article/p2p-74648770/
- And, due to the miracle of the internet, some news outlets posted the 9-1-1 MP3 file on their websites. You can hear all the painful details yourself: the urging dispatcher and the uncooperative nurse. Here is one link: http://www.kget.com/news/local/story/Dramatic-911-tape-reveals-dispatcher-s-fight-to/g2pqsOnJJUGDHFDtxoK04Q.cspx
- And, audio files are easily transcribed. Here is just a sample of a choice moment in the conversation:
DISPATCHER: I understand if your boss is telling you, you can’t do it. But … as a human being … you know … is there anybody that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die?”
NURSE: Not at this time.
DISPATCHER [later in the phone call]: Is there a gardener? 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.
- The facility’s executive director, Jeffrey Toomer, sent a statement to media, reiterating the policy of Glenwood Gardens. At best, this made them look bureaucratic and lacking empathy.
- While Mrs. Bayless was 87, the same policy of not administering CPR would have applied if a resident was 77, 67, or 57. How would relatives feel if their loved one passed away at 57 and Glenwood Gardens’ staff had done nothing?
- Of course, the story went viral on Twitter and Yelp, the public review and ratings site, with comments like “Got a death wish? Go to Glenwood Gardens,” “Nurses who let people die?” and “I hope murder charges are brought.”
When Glenwood Gardens made the policy decision of not administering CPR to a collapsed resident, did they consider any of the eventualities that really happened to Mrs. Lorraine Bayless? A senior PR person would probably have pointed out the future ramifications of their policy—and counseled them otherwise.
What is the damage to Glenwood Gardens’ reputation caused by this PR crisis?
And, how many care-givers who were considering Glenwood Gardens as a residence for their aging parents and relatives are now opting for other facilities? This policy is going to cost them money as well as reputation.