Max Murphy, 88, died in November 2014 after drinking cleaning fluid left in the bathroom at his nursing home on Hope Island.
Max Murphy, 88, died in November 2014 after drinking cleaning fluid left in the bathroom at his nursing home on Hope Island.

War hero killed by poisonous solution in nursing home

A NURSING home may not have diluted a concentrated cleaning solution before an elderly man with dementia drank it from the bottle.

Former World War II veteran Maxwell Murphy, 88, was found with a burning mouth and a "half empty" bottle of surface disinfectant in his Lions Haven for the Aged room in Hope Island about 2.45pm on November 23, 2014.

It took the nursing home three hours to call an ambulance.

Mr Murphy died less than 24 hours later after being rushed to hospital when he started coughing up blood.

An inquest into his death at the Coroner's Court at Southport this morning was told the cleaning solution, Bacban, may not have been diluted by staff at the nursing home as required by the chemical guidelines.

Maxwell Murphy at the Adelaide War Memorial Cemetery in February 2014 — nine months before his death. Picture: Supplied
Maxwell Murphy at the Adelaide War Memorial Cemetery in February 2014 — nine months before his death. Picture: Supplied

Counsel assisting the coroner Joanna Cull told the court based on testing done the solution had not been diluted by staff from what was provided in bulk by the chemical provider.

She asked facilities manager Catherine Newman if that would have been possible.

"I had not imagined a staff member would do that," Ms Newman said.

"I can't imagine a staff member would do that. I can't.

"I find that really distressing."

Ms Newman's voice broke as she answered.

Coroner James McDougall was shown clips of CCTV footage in the lead up to the incident showing staff going into and out of the room.

At about 11.30am a cleaner was seen going into the room with a chemical bottle but was not holding the bottle when she left.

Max Murphy, 88, was an anti-aircraft gun ammunition runner during the Bombing of Darwin.
Max Murphy, 88, was an anti-aircraft gun ammunition runner during the Bombing of Darwin.

Ms Newman told the court she had spoken to the cleaner who was adamant she had taken in a different cleaning product used to kill ants.

The court was told it was unclear when nursing staff realised Mr Murphy needed to go to hospital but staff had been with him the entire time.

The nursing home's clinical nurse manager Pamela Fox told the coroner she called the poison information hotline who told her the chemical would cause mouth pain and a stomach ache.

Ms Fox said she was told Mr Murphy had drunk between 10mL and 20mL of the cleaning fluid.

The inquest continues.

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