1 patient dead after accidental poisoning at San Mateo elderly care facility

3 mins read

Three residents in an assisted living facility were accidentally served dishwashing liquid as drinking juice. Since the incident, one has passed away. 

The accidental poisoning happened at the Atria Park Senior Living facility in San Mateo. At 8:30 a.m on Saturday, three ambulances were called to the facility. Atria Park said three people were taken to the hospital after “mistakenly being served dishwashing liquid as drinking juice.” 

Gertrude Elizabeth Murison Maxwell, 93, has passed away following the incident. Her daughter, Marcia Cutchin, says the family first heard the incident from an Atria staff member who reported that Maxwell had ingested a substance and was being taken into the hospital. 

Gertrude Elizabeth Murison Maxwell (Courtesy of Ms. Maxwell’s family)

According to Cutchin, her mother arrived at the hospital with “severe blistering of her mouth and throat and esophagus.” Cutchin says Atria told her family the substance was an “alkaline cleaning solution that eats protein.”

Cutchin and her family were told that first responders believed the dementia patients had ingested the substance on their own. However, Cutchin disputes saying that this is impossible in her mother’s case because she cannot feed herself. 

“Many people like my mother, you have to hold a cup to her mouth and tip it into her mouth,” Cutchin said.

Cutchin and her family chose this facility because of its good reputation. 

“That facility was very highly regarded and very expensive. You do those things to ensure that there’s a higher level of care,” she said.

Atria Senior Living has released the following statement:

“We can confirm three of our residents were recently transported to the hospital after mistakenly being served dishwashing liquid as drinking juice. We have been working with local authorities, who have informed us that one resident passed away. Our sincerest condolences are with the family. When this occurred, our staff immediately contacted authorities, and the residents were transported to the hospital for evaluation and treatment.  We are conducting our own internal investigation, and the employees involved have been suspended until this investigation concludes. We will continue working with the police and Department of Social Services to fully review and assess the incident, after which we will take additional actions as needed. The safety and well-being of our residents remain our top priorities at all times. Out of respect for the people involved, we cannot comment further.”

At this time, San Mateo Police are investigating the incident jointly with the California Department of Social Services Ombudsman. Police say Atria Hillsdale is cooperating with the investigation. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Sergeant Detective Paul Pak at 650-522-7660 or pak@cityofsanmateo.org.