No end to companies that fail to see larger crisis their decisions self-inflict

Fewer companies would have to endure a crisis if they’d recognize the decisions they make will cause a crisis that’s worse than why they made a certain decision in the first place.

You’ve heard by now — in our global village — about the Glenwood Gardens assisted living facility in Bakersfield, CA. An 87-year-old woman apparently went in to cardiac arrest last week and a nurse at the home called 911. The transcripts are instructive.

The frustrated 911 operator does her best to find someone else to perform the potentially life-saving service after the nurse tells her the company’s policy forbids it. The nurse on the phone from Glenwood is just as obviously embarrassed that company policy prevents giving CPR.

The 87-year-old woman subsequently died. Her daughter is quoted in the story as saying she was satisfied with her mother’s care at Glenwood.

Let’s break down this one. First, it seems pretty clear that lawyers for the company fear that if Glenwood personnel performed CPR and the resident died the company could be open to a liability or malpractice suit. Maybe the company — neither the story nor the company’s statement said — lost just such a lawsuit.

Let’s even go so far as to say that the loss was six figures and Glenwood self-insures and had to pay it from existing reserves or revenues. Glenwood’s owners couldn’t have been happy. So what did they do? They overreacted. They ordered that no one perform CPR. And what landed in their laps as a result?

That would be No. 2, which is the perception that Glenwood’s owners — Brookdale Senior Living — care so little about their residents that they would order the withholding of life-saving measures no matter what. The nurse on the 911 call was highly resistant, the obtuse of the 911 operator who was desperately trying to save a human life.

[Established in 1978, Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD) operates senior residences in multiple states. Brookdale is the largest owner and operator of senior living communities throughout the United States, operating more than 570 senior or retirement communities with 35,000 staff and 55,000 residents. That’s from Wikipedia, because none of the links to Brookdale web sites seem to be functioning this morning. Curiouser and curiouser.]

Now here’s what the Glenwood owners’ decision means: Yes, they probably avoided a lawsuit. But, could the nurse face licensing or even criminal charges? And, what half-caring person is going to put his or her parent in Glenwood any time soon if they can’t be assured that their parent would receive basic life-saving efforts if needed? Add the cost of all the negative national publicity?

How many millions of dollars in patients going elsewhere did Glenwood’s owners lose and will they lose because they feared a possible lawsuit?

Perception: They are callous and un-caring, fitting the worst stereotypes about bad assisted living operators who put revenue ahead of lives, humanity or morality.

And, this crisis is totally self-inflicted. Why? Because there’s an obvious middle-road policy change here that might save lives and liability. Train the staff. Make sure everyone knows how to perform CPR. That should insulate your company against lawsuits and still respect patients. Sure it will cost a little, even across 570 facilities. But it shows you care, are ready to save lives and can still meet your lawyers’ rules.

Because here’s the ultimate irony. In the end, the no-CPR rule could have been circumvented anyway. The 911 operator asked the nurse to put a passerby on the phone so the operator could get a random stranger to perform CPR. If that had happened, Glenwood could have enforced the policy fully and still opened itself to a lawsuit.

Think we’re kidding about loss of revenue? Here’s just one online review filed today on Yelp, by Sally T. of Beverly Hills, CA, among 57 mostly negative ones.

This place is gone!  It won’t last the rest of the year.  This place does NOT care about helping the elderly, but saving their own necks.  They would just soon see people die and make money in the process, than actually helping the elderly during there remainder years.  Now that this is out in the open and all over the news, this place will collapse.  Individuals will start pulling out their parents and place them in better hands elsewhere.  Big lawsuit to follow and possibly criminal charges.
This place is in hot water and it will NOT recover!
Can Brookdale absorb the losses at one of its many facilities? Of course. But then the line from the 2005 Jim Carrey movie Fun With Dick and Jane comes to mind. Dick, a corporate flack on the hot seat, faces his worst nightmare, Ralph Nader. Playing himself, Nader admonishes, “I don’t know how you sleep at night, sir.”

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.


About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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