One person is dead and two others are hospitalized after an apparent unintentional poisoning at an assisted living facility in San Mateo, police said.
The woman who died, along with two other residents, were given a caustic liquid instead of grape juice by mistake, Atria Park of San Mateo said.
San Mateo fire officials were called to the facility on Saturday, Aug. 27, and transported the residents to Peninsula Hospital in Burlingame.
“That should not happen, that is a terrible mistake,” said June Lee, who was going to take her husband to the assisted living facility.
Get a weekly recap of the latest San Francisco Bay Area housing news. Sign up for NBC Bay Area’s Housing Deconstructed newsletter.
Family members of the 93-year-old victim that died say she was a long-time San Mateo resident with nine children, and they want answers.
Atria Park of San Mateo issued 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.”
Atria has several assisted living facilities throughout California, and elder abuse attorney Kathryn Stebner said she’s filed four lawsuits against it in the past four years. Two of those have been against the San Mateo center.
“They’ve been from falls, wounds and things like that, all of them on the basis of not having enough staff and not enough training at the facilities,” said Stebner.
In at least one of those cases, Stebner said one of the residents died due to negligence. What happened this past weekend, she said, is unusual, and she believes something systematically went really wrong.
“It didn’t come in a juice container if it’s poison, so I actually have a hard time believing that,” said Stebner.
A woman said she has a client at the living facility and wasn’t too surprised to find out what happened; she believes the center is severely short staffed.
“They would leave the plates in the room and sometimes they are stacked and nobody picks it up, and I have to clean it myself,” said the woman, who did not want to be identified.
Police say they are working with the California Department of Social Services Ombudsman to find out how exactly a worker could confuse dishwashing liquid for juice.