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Thomasville nursing home deaths: State investigating whether facility complied with requirements

Police said just three staff members were caring for 98 residents at Pine Ridge Health & Rehabilitation Center when officers got there and found two residents dead.

THOMASVILLE, N.C. — Tragedy at a Triad nursing home. Thomasville police said they found two people dead at an understaffed facility during the winter storm on Sunday.

Police said just three staff members were caring for 98 residents at Pine Ridge Health & Rehabilitation Center when they did a welfare check on the facility. Two residents were found dead and two more were taken to area hospitals. On Thursday, investigators said one patient is scheduled to be released and will be going to a different assisted living center. They said the other patient remains in critical condition in the ICU. 

Davidson County District Attorney Gary Frank told WFMY News 2's Grace Holland Wednesday he is assisting with the investigation and it is too early to say whether there will be charges.

The state health department said its Division of Health Service Regulation, which oversees nursing homes, is doing its own investigation into whether Pine Ridge was complying with requirements.

Police said weather and road conditions contributed to low staffing that night.

“Obviously, the weather and road conditions contributed to the inadequate staffing issues with this facility,” Thomasville Police Captain Brad Saintsing said. “We want to ensure each, and every resident of the facility is getting the quality of care they deserve. 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.”

Police said an “abundance” of first responders cared for the residents through the evening into the next morning while they investigated.

WFMY News 2’s Grace Holland spoke to a woman whose 95-year-old great-grandmother lives there. She told her it’s not the first time there’s been a staffing issue at Pine Ridge Health and Rehabilitation Center.

“I called her and she was like, ‘Savanna, there’s cops all over this place.’ I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ She was like, ‘They’re taking care of us, they’re checking us,’ and that kind of raised my suspicions as to what was going on,” Savanna Barrett said.

The State Bureau of Investigation is also working on the case.

Barrett said she’s noticed changes since the investigation began Sunday.

“I came up here yesterday. This place was packed full of employees. Odd, because it’s never like that, to be honest,” she said.

State records show dozens of complaints at the facility over the years. Some were unsubstantiated when inspected but others were corrected.

Medicare.gov also shows the facility received three federal fines in the last three years. One was more than $100,000 in 2018.

The site does not explain why the facility was fined but said they can come from serious health or fire safety citations or from failing to correct a citation.

Barrett hopes to see care and staffing improve. 

“We’ll see what happens when the news goes away and the SBI goes away. Will it stay like that? I don’t know. I hope it does,” she said.

She said her great-grandmother does not want to leave the facility, so Barrett has no plans to move her.

"I am thankful that my granny is able to do for herself, but these residents that can’t do for themselves, that’s the ones I was worried about," Barrett said.

WFMY News 2's Grace Holland called Pine Ridge about the investigation. An administrator offered no comment.

We are still waiting for a response from Principle LTC, the company that owns the facility. Principle LTC runs 56 care centers in North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky.

If you have any information, call Crime Stoppers at (336) 476-8477.