JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. (WVLT) - When you visit the doctor or see a nurse, do you ever stop and wonder whether they're trained or licensed to care for you? It's probably something many never think about. But the story Lois and Clyde Harless have to share might change that.
A Morristown couple talks about their nursing nightmare / Source: WVLT News
Lois Harless married Clyde Harless when she was just 17-years-old. Decades have since passed, and both husband and wife have settled into defined roles. Lois is known as the jokester, Clyde is the fixer.
"Going in tearing something out, fixing it and standing back and looking and saying, 'Boy, that really looks a lot better,' that’s just my thing," Clyde explained.
But when Clyde got sick with pancreatitis, he was the one in need of fixing.
"I almost lost my life partner. Yes. The love of my life, I almost lost him. And I can’t imagine it. Very emotional, yes," Lois remembered after a home health care nurse came to her home to care for Clyde. "It was a nightmare after that lady left my home."
Lois said the woman who came to care for her husband was identified as Misty Dawn Bacon. The same woman the Jefferson City Police Department said it was investigating for allegedly posing as a nurse.
Lois said Bacon was working for Interim Healthcare when she said Bacon showed up at her Morristown home in April of 2013 to give Clyde insulin through his food bag. Clyde said he remembered her, "coming in, putting the food bag on me, and leaving. I remember getting tired, and I sorta went out."
"He was drooling, he couldn’t hold his head up, he couldn’t sit up or nothing," Lois recalled.
Clyde was taken to the now closed Lakeway Regional Hospital that same day. Hospital records from that visit show he was admitted because of an overuse of insulin. But Lois said she didn't put two and two together until she watched WVLT's exclusive coverage earlier in the year.
"She come here pretending to be something she wasn't. It was as dangerous as me pretending to be a brain surgeon and going in and doing surgery and I’m going to kill that person when I do because I have no clue of what I’m doing and that was her," Lois said.
Lt. Eric Thomas with the Jefferson City Police Department said several others were fooled as well. In fact, he said in Jefferson City alone four businesses all hired Bacon. He said one of them was home health care company Amedisys.
Clyde and Lois never contacted police, but Amedisys did. A report filed with the Jefferson City Police Department by an office manager at Amedisys sparked an investigation by detectives. The report alleged Bacon provided a false birth certificate and nursing license number belonging to someone else to get the job at Amedisys.
Several months after making the report, Amedisys went one step further, warning patients through a letter. Thomas Rimmer's mother received the letter.
He said, "When we got the letter, it shocked us very well, it shocked us bad."
The letter explained that it fired Misty Dawn Bacon because she, "lied about her identity and did not have a nursing license."
"I was like 'oh, no, she took care of my mom?' And messing with the meds, it could be harmful to her health," Rimmer explained.
In its report filed with the Jefferson City Police Department, Amedisys alleged Bacon engaged in fraud and identity theft, painting a picture of an elaborate lie built on the truth of a woman named Misty Dawn Venett.
"I received a call from an agent from the TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation). They wanted to let me know that my nursing license had been utilized by someone else." Venett is a licensed nurse. The Jefferson City Police Department said Bacon used Venett's license number to work at Amedisys.
"It is truly terrifying to me. I would hate to think what she’s done and what decisions she’s made without having that license. She could have potentially killed someone," Venett said.
Lt. Thomas said Bacon likely plucked Venett's license number from a public state database that lists the name and license number of every health care provider in Tennessee.
It took WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara just six seconds to find Venett's information online. State health officials said the database allows citizens to research providers and see complaints filed against them before making appointments.
But Venett said it left her vulnerable, "All of our personal information is accessible online with that license number. It may just be a license number, but it’s a license number."
Lt. Thomas said the case reaches far beyond Jefferson City. He said in January of 2019, he teamed up with the TBI and determined Bacon pulled the same stunt in so many other jurisdictions, it was best to ask the United States Attorney's Office to open one unified case.
The TBI and the United States Attorney's Office would not confirm whether they had an open investigation and criminal charges had not been filed against Bacon. WVLT News could not find record of civil charges filed against her either.
WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara called Bacon, hoping to hear her side of the story. Over the phone, Bacon said, “The only thing I want to say is 99% of the stuff that you all are hearing is not true. That’s all I want to say.”
What exactly did Bacon dispute? WVLT News showed up at her home hoping to find out. WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara asked, “We’ve got a home health care company that says you lied about being a nurse. Is that true?" A man standing in the front yard said, "She don’t have any comment.” Bacon didn't answer. Instead, she walked inside the home and shut the door.
State Senator Richard Briggs, who represents parts of Knox County, is also a medical doctor. WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara asked him, "You hear about a situation like this and, as a doctor, your mind goes where?"
Senator Briggs said, "First of all this is one of the most egregious cases I’ve heard about."
Senator Briggs said the state doesn't require fingerprint verification in order for health care providers to get a job. Because of that, he said the only answer is lawsuits. "I actually think what would control it more than anything are lawsuits. All these businesses will have liability insurance, and if they’re starting to get sued because they’re not doing background checks, then their liability companies will tell them, 'If you don’t do this, we’re not going to carry your insurance,' and then they become personally liable. They’ll either go out of business or they’ll be sued out of business," Senator Briggs said.
But Clyde and Lois aren't the suing type. "Sure, I could have probably sued and got lawyers and went through all of this and maybe got a few dollars," Clyde said.
But instead, the fixer at heart and his wife preferred to sound the alarm using the one tool they have, their voices.
"I just hope this will help someone, I really do. Whoever she was around maybe they’ll see it and maybe it’ll give them courage to step forward with it," Lois said.
When asked about whether it had an open case regarding Bacon, a spokesperson for the TBI wrote to WVLT News and said, "All questions regarding this matter should be directed to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. With that said, we welcome any information about possible criminal activity in Tennessee. Tips can be emailed to TipsToTBI@tn.gov. Our personnel will review the information and, if necessary, send it to the appropriate party."
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