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Coroner, SC health agency investigating death at Fort Mill birthing center

York County Coroner Sabrina Gast and the state health department are investigating the death of an infant at a Fort Mill birthing center that had been shut down in 2013 following the death of another baby there.

Gast said the death occurred Tuesday morning at Carolina Community Maternity Center on Pleasant Road just off Gold Hill Road. The case is still under investigation, she said Wednesday.

“I still don’t have a name at this point,” Gast said. “I’m waiting on the (N.C.) Medical Examiner’s Office in Charlotte.”

The baby was taken to a Charlotte hospital, Gast said, but was being taken to the York County Coroner’s Office Wednesday afternoon.

An autopsy can take six to eight weeks, she said, and any further investigation, depending on what an autopsy finds, can take even longer.

The state Department of Health and Environmental Control also is investigating the death, agency spokesman Jim Beasley said. DHEC conducts investigations on facility compliance any time a complaint or information alleges a rule was broken.

“DHEC is aware of the recent media reports concerning an incident at Carolina Community Maternity Center and is pursuing an investigation,” he said, declining further comment.

The York County Sheriff’s Office is aware of the death, spokesman Trent Faris said, but is not currently investigating.

Efforts to reach anyone at Carolina Community Maternity Center for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday. The center’s door was locked when a reporter visited Wednesday afternoon, and no one answered a knock at the door.

DHEC issued an emergency suspension order for Carolina Community Maternity Center in September 2013, citing “various violations of the law,” Beasley said. That order followed an August 2013 incident during which a baby was delivered with no heartbeat, after the center failed to contact a physician at numerous points during labor. The order also cited the center for previously failing to have a physician on call at all times, as mandated by state law.

The maternity center and DHEC resolved the issues listed in the emergency order, which was lifted in February.

DHEC lists five licensed birth centers in the state, with a total of 12 beds. Carolina Community Maternity Center, the only nonprofit corporation among them, is the only one in York County.

Carolina Community Maternity Center is accredited with the American Association of Birth Centers, according to the center’s website.

Last year, a Rock Hill couple filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the maternity center involving another baby. Lee and Katherine Wagner allege the staff at the center provided inadequate care during Katherine Wagner’s pregnancy with their daughter, Stacy.

In March 2013, when she was 39 weeks pregnant, Wagner, an existing patient, came to the center experiencing painful contractions. The lawsuit alleges that the center’s staff told her to go for a walk. When she returned to the center, she learned her baby had no heartbeat.

Lee Wagner drove his wife to a hospital where she delivered Stacy, who had died.

The lawsuit alleges Carolina Community Maternity Center did not provide adequate care to Stacy and Katherine Wagner, who suffered from other complications in the last few weeks of her pregnancy.

Under DHEC regulations, the staff at the center should have transferred the Wagners to the care of a physician, said Randy Hood, the Wagners’ attorney.

While the latest death involving the center will not impact the Wagners’ lawsuit, Hood said, it “raises further questions” about the level of care Carolina Community Maternity Center is providing its patients.

Michael Harrison of the Fort Mill Times contributed.

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