Officers were called to a nursing home in central North Carolina for a welfare check after the police department said phone calls to the facility went unanswered and residents reported not seeing anyone on staff.
By the time they arrived, police said, two patients were dead and another two were in critical condition.
Now Pine Ridge Health & Rehabilitation Center is under investigation as the Thomasville Police Department works to understand whether a lack of staff or neglect contributed to the patients’ death. There were three people — a registered nurse and two nurse assistants — taking care of 98 residents at the time, police said.
“Obviously, the weather and road conditions contributed to the inadequate staffing issues with this facility,” Captain Brad Saintsing said in a news release announcing the investigation. “First and foremost, we want to ensure each and every resident of the facility is getting the quality of care they deserve. With these type of facilities, there is a protocol and we want to ensure it was followed as it relates to the weather and/or emergency situations.”
A representative from Pine Ridge did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Jan. 18.
The nursing home, which offers long-term care and short-stay rehabilitation services to patients, is located on Pineywood Road in Thomasville, about 70 miles northeast of Charlotte.
Officers from the Thomasville Police Department were called to Pine Ridge just before 8 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 16, following reports that “staff could not be contacted by telephone and had not been seen by some residents of the facility,” police said.
Once the officers arrived and determined the facility was short-staffed, police said they called for help from the Thomasville Fire Department and Davidson County Emergency Medical Services. First responders then went door-to-door checking on residents, according to the news release.
Police said they found two residents dead and another two in critical condition.
The families of the deceased patients had been notified earlier in the day, according to the release, and their bodies were sent to Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Hospital for autopsies. The patients in critical condition were taken to High Point Medical Center and Thomasville Medical Center.
Workers from EMS, Emergency Management and the fire department stayed at Pine Ridge until 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 17, to make sure residents had adequate care, police said.
The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, Davidson County District Attorney’s Office, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and Davidson County Social Services are assisting police with the investigation while DHHS oversees operations at the facility.
Police said Pine Ridge is owned by a parent company, Principle LTC, which operates about 56 centers with 7,200 beds in North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky.