NewsChannel 11 Investigates A Lubbock Nurse With a Bad Reputation - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/19/07

NewsChannel 11 Investigates A Lubbock Nurse With a Bad Reputation

Tammy Cox failed her drug test two months ago when she tested positive for opiates, a form of pain medicine. You're probably thinking, what's the big deal?

But if you knew she spent three years in prison because of stolen medication and her admitted use of heroine, would this be the woman you want taking care of your loved one?     

We're exposing information about a nurse working at Lakeridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a place caring for about 86 patients with physical impairments.

Cox has been employed by Lakeridge more than just once.  In fact, she worked there and at two other rehab facilities when she was convicted in 2000 for obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

Her charges included getting Lortab, a pain medicine, through bogus prescriptions, stealing a patient's Lortab at a facility in Littlefield and getting narcotics unlawfully at the Slaton Care Center.

A Lubbock judge placed her on probation for seven years.  Her nursing license was even taken away from her. Just two years into her probation, she was sent to prison after testing positive for cocaine and pain medicine and admitted to shooting heroin on a daily basis.

Cox is out of jail now and was able to convince the Texas Board of Nurse Examiners to give back her nursing license two years ago. She's back at Lakeridge as the nursing director.

So how is it that a convicted felon who admits to having an addiction to pain medicine be in charge of nursing staff here at Lakeridge?  We went inside Lakeridge to get some answers, but were greeted by staff and led to the administrator Beverly Pratt's office.

"We'd like to talk to Tammy Cox or if you can answer some questions about her criminal history and why she's the director of nursing here?" asked NewsChannel 11's Cecelia Jones. 

"You can turn your camera off because I haven't given you permission for you to film me," said Pratt.

You see, two months ago, a drug audit revealed missing pain meds at Lakeridge and Pratt told all the nurses who had access to a locked narcotic box to take a drug test. This report shows that Cox's test came back positive for opiates. 

NewsChannel 11 was able to get proof, that not only did she fail her drug test, but she admitted to having access to drugs at the nursing home. A statement was signed by her boss, the same person who told us to turn off our camera.

This test got Cox suspended, then she quit.  One month later, Lakeridge hired her again.  Why? We tried to ask the owner of Lakeridge. Terri Ruble refused to meet with us, that's why I had to talk to her on the phone.

"Why do you keep rehiring this woman? Why is she still the nursing director knowing she has a drug problem? Really? Because she admitted to using heroin and cocaine and she tested positive for opiates in January. She's still the nursing director, why is that? Should people feel comfortable with that?," asked NewsChannel 11.

We wanted to ask Cox that question, but they wouldn't let us talk to her.  However, Ruble says Cox explained why her test came back positive. Cox said it was because her doctor gave her a prescription for pain pills. Remember, Cox admitted in her own writing to being addicted to pain pills. 

As part of getting her license back, she is supposed to let the board of nurse examiners know if she gets a prescription for pain meds. We called the board in Austin to confirm her story, but they wouldn't say if she had done that.

But we do know, by this letter dated February 5th, 2007 addressed to Ms. Pratt, Cox is under investigation by the board.  "Is the Texas Attorney General investigating this place for drug diversion? You don't know if the AG's office is investigating this place?" asked NewsChannel 11.

The owner wouldn't directly answer most of our questions. And since NewsChannel 11 started investigating, we've received anonymous phone calls letting us know a new assistant director of nursing was appointed to monitor Cox, his name is Billy Jewell.  You may be interested to know he was the former owner who is also Ruble's father.

Jewell, by the way, got in trouble with the federal government nine years ago.  He was convicted of using fraudulent visa petitions to bring foreign nurses into the United States. The Texas Nurses Association also filed a wage complaint against Jewell on behalf of the nurses for cheating them out of their pay.  According to the federal document we got from the federal courthouse, he spent 37 months behind bars and three years on probation. He was ordered to pay back one $1.5 million to the Department of Labor.

The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services confirmed they are investigating Lakeridge. This means that three state agencies are looking into the conduct of this nurse and the facility. 

Monday, we received this statement from the owner, Terri Ruble, even though she refused to give us a comment two weeks ago when we visited the facility.

"The state regulatory agency for long term care facilities, The Department of Aging and Disability Services, has completed its investigation of this allegation and found it unsubstantiated and cited no deficiencies.  The nurse mentioned in your investigation has passed all of her drug screens and had a one time prescription for the medication that she tested positive for.  She has complied with all of her board of Nurse Examiner's stipulations and continues to serve her clients and her employer in an exemplary manner.  As always, quality care for our clients is our number one goal and we continually strive to maintain that goal."

If you want to make sure your nurse is in the good graces of the state, you can click here.

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