Woman accused of giving life support training without proper credentials

EUGENE, Ore. - An Oregon hospital has to get more than two dozen employees re-trained in advanced cardiac life support after finding out the person who trained the employees lost her certification more than a year ago.

Harla Torres has been teaching American Heart Association life-saving classes even though she was told to stop.

Torres and her husband, Richard, run the All RescueOne CPR and First Aid Training Center in Eugene. Torres teaches doctors, nurses and paramedics to save people from heart attacks.

But the KATU On Your Side Investigators learned McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield says her training doesn't cut it. That's because Torres is no longer endorsed by the American Heart Association.

McKenzie-Willamette now has to have 30 of their employees re-trained by an instructor certified by the American Heart Association.

"In summer of 2011, we learned that All RescueOne was operating without being aligned with an American Heart Association training center," said Timothy Williams, the director of training center operations and quality for the American Heart Association.

Williams said the AHA sent Torres a certified cease-and-desist letter in June of last year. The letter ordered her to stop "teaching any and all American Heart Association-based courses."

"She refused to sign for the letter," Williams told KATU in an email. "We did not see any evidence that Harla Torres continued to teach American Heart Association-based courses through All RescueOne until just recently."

That evidence included Torres' website, which still prominently advertised American Heart Association classes.

We recently went to All RescueOne to ask Torres why her website still featured the AHA endorsement.

'No. It says 'not scheduling classes at this time,'" Torres said.

When asked if she thought it is misleading to have the American Heart Association classes on her website, she responded, "I was still American Heart Association certified, but I was not aligned with a training center."

Torres is now teaching classes under another organization, called the American Safety and Health Institute (ASHI).

McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center as well as PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center in Springfield, both say they do not accept ASHI training for their employees.

When asked how many doctors, nurses or paramedics from hospitals across the state might need to be re-trained because she is not AHA certified, Torres said, "It's a very small percentage of my business."

Eugene Police Detective Steve Williams investigated the situation with All RescueOne. Williams said it is not a criminal case because advanced cardiac life support classes are not required by law.

Chuck Coleman, who is an American Heart Association certified instructor, said hospitals require the classes because lifesaving techniques change regularly.

"Standards - you have to have people always watching you," said Coleman. "If you have people out there just doing things on their own, there's no credibility, accountability."

"All RescueOne training has had no impact on patient care," said Beth Kregenow, vice president of business development for McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center. "We took prompt action to reschedule training to ensure our staff meets CPR certification requirements."

In her own defense, Torres told KATU she's the victim of a smear campaign by other ACLS/CPR trainers who want to run her out of business because her classes are less expensive.

"It's a very lucrative business, very lucrative," she said.

Torres has now removed reference to American Heart Association classes from her website. She promises she will no longer teach classes under the American Heart Association name and said anyone who is unhappy with the training they received from All RescueOne can get a refund.

After KATU confronted Torres, she changed the name of her business to America's First Aid and CPR Center.