Barbara Dawson Case: An Inside Look at Calhoun-Liberty Hospital

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By: Alicia Turner
January 8, 2016

BLOUNTSTOWN, Fla. -- We’re getting an exclusive look inside the Calhoun-Liberty Hospital in Blountstown where Barbara Dawson went to be treated. Instead, she was arrested and died shortly afterward. We also spoke with the hospital’s CEO for the first time since the release of the dash cam video from her arrest.

Many have seen police video released by Dawson family attorneys. It shows some of 57-year-old Barbara Dawson's final moments of life.

Friday, the CEO of Calhoun-Liberty Hospital, Ruth Attaway, shows us where it all started. We got a look one of the six emergency units inside Calhoun-Liberty Hospital, similar to the one Dawson was in on the morning of her arrest.

CEO Attaway says when she saw the police video, it had a profound effect on her, both personally and professionally.

"It's always sad when we hear any negative comments. We feel like we've come a long way here at the hospital and we want to take it to the next level,” Attaway says.

Before moving forward, the hospital is answering questions focused on details such as, why was Barbara Dawson taken off of her oxygen?

"I know that the oxygen was disconnected and the only reason for getting the tube out of the way was because she was tripping on it, so that was for safety," Attaway told us.

Barbara lived across from the hospital and frequently visited the emergency room. Her family says doctors and staff knew she always used her oxygen tank.

According to the hospital, once a patient is discharged they’re still able to determine their vitals outside of the hospital using a small device that detects their blood oxygen level and their heart rate. A typical level is around 97. According to the video that night, Barbara Dawson’s was 98.

But even with a healthy oxygen reading, Barbara knew she wasn’t okay.

“Help me! I can’t breathe!” Dawson can be heard saying in the dash cam recording.

Dawson died from a blood clot in the lungs less than an hour later.

The hospital says Monday it plans to announce the launch of a new task force. This will be a joint effort with Reverend R.B. Holmes. The hospital says the goal is to develop ways to better serve the community.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
January 7, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Thursday, the Florida Department of Health issued a statement regarding the death of 57-year-old Barbara Dawson. Dawson died at the Calhoun-Liberty County Hospital on December 22, shortly after being arrested for refusing to leave the hospital upon her release.

The statement from the Florida Department of Health reads:

"The Florida Department of Health is deeply concerned with the events that transpired at Calhoun-Liberty Hospital. Although by law, the department cannot disclose the existence or status of any investigation until 10 days after finding of probable cause or wrongdoing, we are committed to working with our sister agencies to do whatever is necessary to ensure patient safety and quality of care for Florida’s citizens."

By: Julie Montanaro
January 6, 2016

Dash cam video released Wednesday depicts the final hours of Barbara Dawson's life.

It shows Blountstown Police Officer John Tadlock arriving at the Calhoun-Liberty Hospital in the wee hours of December 21st.

Though the video only includes glimpses of Dawson as she is escorted to the patrol car, the audio clearly captures the struggle as she begs to stay, and repeatedly says she cannot breathe.

Dawson died of a blood clot in her lung within hours of the confrontation.

The family watched this video for the first time today.

"The video was very, very tough for me," said Dawson's cousin, Martha Smith Dickson. "I had my napkins, and I was just crying, and it was very surprising to me. The video has some things in there that I was so shocked of, because the hospitals are supposed to save people. That's their goal, is to save. Not hurt and harm."

Barbara's brother, Stafford Dawson, said, "When I had seen the video and seen that they were taking the oxygen away, I knew it wouldn't be long. Then just to watch them out there for over 20 minutes, just letting her lie on the ground, thinking that she was just playing possum. You know, I don't know if I can ever overcome this."

Both the Blountstown Police and Calhoun-Liberty Hospital have released statements in response to the videotape. Their full statements can be read below.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
January 6, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The attorneys representing the family of Barbara Dawson, the woman who died at a Blountstown Hospital in December, have released a video from a police cruiser dash camera.

A press conference was held at the office of Parks and Crump Wednesday morning where the video was released to the media.

In the video, which is more than two and a half hours long, Dawson is heard calling for help, stating that she can't breathe, and arguing with an officer as he repeatedly tells her she needs to leave.

Two separate videos from the same camera depict shots of both the front and back of the police cruiser.

Dawson collapsed by the police cruiser and later died at the hospital.

At the press conference this morning, Benjamin Crump questioned why Dawson wasn't able to get more immediate medical attention.

"The crux of the matter here, why didn't she get the benefit of the doubt? Why didn't she get the benefit of the humanity from the hospital and the police officer," Crump asked at the press conference.

Family members, who had not yet seen the video were ushered into a room following the press conference to watch the video privately.

In a statement prior to watching the video, the family said that the video would not bring Barbara back and that their goal is to get justice for their loved one, and make sure the same thing doesn't happen to anyone else.

Following the release of the video, Calhoun Liberty Hospital's CEO Ruth Attaway released the following statement:

"We have received a copy of the Dawson audio and video from members of the media and while we are still reviewing it, we want to reach out to the community with an immediate statement.

"First, we continue to grieve the loss of a patient and a member of the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Ms. Dawson as well as with our community.

"Our primary objective in this situation is to remain transparent and to welcome investigation from authorities. We have already welcomed reviews and investigations from the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as well as the Department of Health. To the fullest extent permitted by state and federal law, we will continue to be transparent and forthcoming with our community and the public.

"We remain committed to providing quality and essential health care for our community, which will be supported by our own thorough review of this situation. We are also in process of setting up a medical and community task force in coordination with Rev. R.B. Holmes to review best practices and better communication to move our hospital forward. We owe our community nothing less.”

The City of Blountstown Police Department also issued a statement Wednesday. It reads:

"Contrary to what has been suggested by legal counsel for Ms. Dawson’s family, in Florida, law enforcement officers are “first responders”. It is important to recognize that law enforcement officers are not trained medical professionals. Generally, as first a responder, a law enforcement officer is trained in CPR. CPR would not be utilized on a person that is breathing and that has a heartbeat, as was the case with Ms. Dawson on December 21, 2015. In the event of a perceived medical emergency, it is a law enforcement officer’s duty and responsibility to request the assistance of trained medical professionals. It is also a law enforcement officer’s responsibility to rely on the medical training and expertise of medical professionals once the officer seeks medical evaluation and/or intervention.

"In Ms. Dawson’s case, the responding officer acted appropriately, by requesting immediate assistance from medical professionals. As clearly depicted in the audio recording of the events as they transpired on December 21, 2015, the officer sought medical attention for Ms. Dawson within less that one minute of her collapse. The medical professionals that responded to Ms. Dawson in the Calhoun-Liberty Hospital parking lot included the following: registered nurses, a paramedic, and a doctor.

"Upon the arrival of the various medical professionals, the officer deferred to the professional training and expertise of the summoned medical professionals to evaluate and assess Ms. Dawson’s need for medical intervention. Although the officer may have suspected that Ms. Dawson was intentionally noncompliant, he nonetheless fully executed his duty and responsibility, requesting that medical professionals continue to verify Ms. Dawson’s health status, even after the medical professionals initially assessed and evaluated Ms. Dawson following her collapse.

"Any action by the law enforcement officer usurping and/or interfering with the medical professionals’ expertise, knowledge and advice, either upon Ms. Dawson’s discharge from Calhoun-Liberty Hospital (after approximately eight (8) hours of evaluation and treatment by medical professionals) or subsequently in the Calhoun-Liberty Hospital parking lot following her collapse, would have been reckless. Any suggestion otherwise by the lawyers involved in this matter is misleading and illogical. Regardless, Ms. Dawson’s passing is a loss felt by our community, and our thoughts and prayers remain with her family and friends during this time."

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
January 5, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The attorneys representing the family of Barbara Dawson plan to release police dash cam video that may shed more light into Dawson's final moments.

Tallahassee Law Firm Parks and Crump has announced a press conference Wednesday at 10 a.m. where they plan to release the video.

Dawson died at the Calhoun-Liberty County Hospital on December 22 shortly after being arrested for refusing to leave the hospital upon her release.

As Dawson was being escorted to a police cruiser, she collapsed by the door. Dawson later died, the official cause of death ruled as a blood clot to the lungs.

The NAACP called on Governor Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to the case. The FDLE and state Agency for Health Care Administration have since launched investigations into the matter. Attorney Darryl Parks said that police and the hospital staff did not do enough to save Dawson's life.

Both the CEO and Blountstown Police Chief Mark Mallory vowed to be transparent in the investigations.

Dawson's funeral was Saturday.

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