THOMASVILLE, N.C. (WGHP) — Two patients remain in the hospital in critical condition after being found in need of severe medical care on Sunday night at the Pine Ridge Health and Rehabilitation Center in Thomasville.
Police were called to the facility just before 8 p.m. Sunday for a welfare check after families reported not being able to get in touch with staff members on site.
When Thomasville police arrived, they found three staff members caring for almost 100 patients. A room check found two patients had passed away, and two others were in critical condition.
An autopsy is being performed to determine if the deaths were of natural causes or of neglect.
One of those patients in critical condition is Shirley Smith, 85, who had been staying at the center since Dec. 5, 2021. She has been on a ventilator since Sunday and is unresponsive.
Her son, Timothy, said he felt as if he let his mother down for trusting those at the facility to take care of her.
“She is never going back to Pine Ridge. I can tell you that. Never,” he explained.
Shirley was very active and lived by herself up until after Thanksgiving of 2021.
Timothy said they made the hard decision to put her into Pine Ridge Health and Rehabilitation Center after she took a series of bad falls.
Timothy and his family claim they quickly learned that there was a shortage of staff members and a lack of care by those who worked with his mother.
“We would push mom’s call button on her bed, and it would stay on for an hour and a half, and nobody would come,” Timothy said. “We weren’t supposed to lift her out of the bed. The staff was supposed to. But we had to do it ourselves because nobody would come.”
Timothy also detailed how he and his wife would have to change his mother’s clothing and clean her up when there were accidents.
FOX8 looked through the last two years of complaints and found 20 pages of concerns that were brought against Pine Ridge.
Complaints included staff members not updating medical charts of patients and a family who were not notified that their loved one was being sent to the hospital.
Also included, the Pine Ridge Health and Rehabilitation Center has a resident council meeting every month to allow residents to voice their concerns to social workers on site.
At the December 2020 meeting, residents said, among other things, that they were concerned about the lack of staff, and that nursing assistants disappeared for hours.
In January 2021, people who lived there said they had concerns over the staffing of the third shift.
In March 2021, people who lived there advised that there were not enough staff members and that medication was not given out on time.
The state listed that there were no documents showing that these concerns were ever addressed.
Also listed, the administrator told the state she was never notified of the concerns. Click here to read the full list.
HealthCare.Gov gave the Pine Ridge Health and Rehabilitation Center one star out of five and cited that they had more patients than the state and national average.
Timothy said he wished he knew this before he put his mom in their care.
On Sunday, he never heard from anyone at the center but rather Thomasville police and hospital staff that his mother had been admitted.
“Police said they found her, and she was obviously distressed. What they thought was a dire need of medical attention,” he said. “She had aspirated. I don’t know if she was responsive. The ER said she talked to them when she got there.”