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Regulators ban Loomis caretaker who served deadly mushroom dish

Allegation Gold Age Villa owner failed to ensure food safety ‘unfounded’
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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The caretaker who served gravy containing poisonous mushrooms that resulted in four deaths of residents at a Loomis elder care facility has been banned for life from all care facilities licensed by the California Department of Social Services, according to its investigation report released Thursday.

The Gold Age Villa caretaker, Lilia Tirdea of Citrus Heights, has two weeks to file an appeal of the decision, which took effect Wednesday. The allegation that the facility’s licensee, Raisa Oselsky, failed to ensure safe food service that led to clients being hospitalized and subsequently dying is “unfounded,” according to the report.

On Nov. 6, Tirdea “prepared a gravy with mushrooms that she picked from the facility backyard, ate it as her dinner meal, and spontaneously served it as an accompaniment to the dinner meal of five of six residents in care,” according to the investigation findings by the department’s Community Care Licensing Division.

Oselsky had trained Tirdea on food safety in accordance with regulations and “explicitly required that Lilia Tirdea only serve food purchased from a store to the residents,” the report said. Nothing in Tirdea’s employment history indicated she would not follow instructions, thus clearing Oselsky of responsibility for the caretaker’s actions, according to the report.

Officials previously indicated that it had been a soup that was served, contrary to the investigation’s report.

Tirdea has not returned to work since the poisoning as she is also ill from eating the mushrooms, the report said. The fifth resident who was sickened by the mushrooms has returned to the facility following hospital admission for treatment, it said.

Oselsky had not been present on Nov. 6, and when residents began to get sick the following day, she called Tirdea to discuss what meals had been served the previous day because she suspected food poisoning, according to the report.

The Community Care Licensing Division deemed the poisonings accidental because it determined Tirdea did not know the mushrooms she picked were toxic, the report said.

In its letter notifying Tirdea of the ban, the department said she “must remain out of and not have any contact with clients in any child day care facility, community care facility or residential care facility for the elderly or chronically ill until a final decision is made in the matter by the Department.”

The department also ordered Oselsky to remove Tirdea from any contact with Gold Age Villa clients or its facility.

If Tirdea appeals the decision and loses, or does not appeal, then she may petition for reinstatement one year after the ban begins.

Dorothy Mary Hart, 92, died Nov.  22 at an Auburn nursing home, five days after Frank Warren Blodgett, 90, died in Sacramento County. The deaths of Barbara Lopes, 86, and Teresa Olesniewicz, 73, were reported just days after the mushrooms had been served.

Dave Wheeler, Loomis Fire Protection District chief, said Loomis Fire responded to two medical emergency calls to Gold Age Villa for severe flu-like symptoms.

He said crews responded at 3 p.m. Nov. 8, to the facility for a call on a man experiencing cramping and diarrhea; and again at 3 a.m. Nov. 9 for a woman with the same symptoms.

When state investigators inspected the facility on Nov. 9, they found that the one resident who remained there had proper care and accommodations.

Messages from the Journal left Thursday on Oselsky’s cell phone and an answering machine at Gold Age Villa were not immediately returned.

Gold Age Villa, located at 8100 Horseshoe Bar Road has been licensed since 2007 for six residents age 60 and older.

 

Jon Schultz can be reached at jons@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews