Thomasville, NC – Authorities are investigating what happened at a North Carolina nursing home where two residents were found dead on Sunday after almost all the staff had abandoned the facility.
Officers responded to the Pine Ridge Health and Rehabilitation Center in Thomasville at about 7:56 p.m. on Jan. 16 to conduct a welfare check, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
Police said they had received 911 calls from residents within the facility who complained they hadn’t seen staff members all day and couldn’t reach anyone at their facility by phone.
Responding officers quickly determined there was not enough staff at the facility to care for its 98 patients, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
The police reports said that when officers arrived at Pine Ridge, there was only one licensed practical nurse and two certified nursing assistants at the facility.
Thomasville police contacted the Thomasville Fire Department and Davidson County Emergency Medical Services for help.
When those agencies arrived, first responders conducted a room-by-room assessment of every patient in the facility, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
It took 12 hours to assess all the patients in the nursing home.
As they searched the nursing home, emergency responders found two residents of the facility dead in their beds, WGHP reported.
It was unclear whether those patients’ deaths were from natural causes or due to neglect by nursing home personnel.
Two more patients were found in critical condition and immediately transported to the hospital, WGHP reported.
A son of one of the critical patients said his mother had to be put on life support after she was found by first responders in her room on Sunday night because of untreated breathing complications.
Pine Ridge sent out a “courtesy” call to residents’ families on Monday that said they had suffered staffing shortages and implied they had called for assistance from another agency, WGHP reported.
“This is a courtesy call from Pine Ridge,” the facility said in the call recorded by a recipient. “We just wanted to make sure that you were aware that during the night shift on… Jan. 16, we had scheduled a full staff, but due to inclement weather, some of the folks were not able to come in. As a result, Davidson County Emergency Management assisted us with staff during those shifts to ensure provision of care. Today’s staff has been able to get to work in ensuring the residents’ needs are met continually.”
The police report allowed that part of the problem could be attributed to the weather, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
“Obviously, the weather and road conditions contributed to the inadequate staffing issues with this facility,” Thomasville Police Captain Brad Saintsing wrote in the report.
“First and foremost, we want to ensure each and every resident of the facility is getting the quality of care they deserve,” Capt. Saintsing continued. “With these types of facilities, there is a protocol, and we want to ensure it was followed as it relates to the weather and/or emergency situations.”
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said “these reports are deeply troubling and need to be investigated thoroughly,” according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
“The health and safety of patients, particularly those in long-term care facilities, are critical,” Cooper added.
Thomasville police have been joined in their investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBII), the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and Davidson County Social Services, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
DHHS is now overseeing operations at the Pine Ridge facility.
Principle LTC, the Kinston-based operator of Pine Ridge, operates 56 facilities with about 7,200 beds overall in North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.