JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — Former Ballad Health travel nurse Jacqueline Brewster turned herself in Tuesday at the Washington County Detention Center to face four counts of obtaining narcotics by fraud related to an alleged theft of patient medications at Johnson City Medical Center (JCMC) last year.
Brewster’s appearance at Jonesborough came five months after local officials sent extradition papers to the Pike County, Ky. Sheriff’s Department. That department didn’t arrest Brewster until April 12, around the time that news broke of Brewster committing similar offenses after she obtained a travel job with Raleigh General Hospital in Beckley, W. Va.
Brewster reported to the jail around noon Tuesday. She posted a $10,000 bond and is no longer in jail, according to the Washington County Detention Center.
An initial court hearing is set for August 8 in the court of Judge Stacy Street. Her charges are class D felonies, which are punishable in Tennessee by 2-12 years in prison.
The JCMC case came to light after a longtime JCMC employee reported suspicious behavior on Brewster’s part. After an investigation, Ballad notified about 100 patients on July 20 of the possibility that they had received medication tainted with blood-borne viruses, including hepatitis B and C and HIV. Those letters said the risk of infection was “extremely low” but offered free testing for anyone who had potentially been exposed.
Three of Brewster’s counts have specific dates attached to them, including one for obtaining Oxycodone and two for obtaining Dilaudid (hydromorphone). Both drugs are narcotic painkillers and are classified as Schedule II controlled substances.
In all instances, the presentment alleges the drugs were obtained from the JCMC Pharmacy “by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge.”
The fourth count covers a period from May 1 to July 11, 2021 and alleges that Brewster obtained six syringes of Dilaudid. The other dates are June 7 and July 11, when Brewster allegedly obtained a Dilaudid, and June 16, when she is accused of obtaining oxycodone.
The West Virginia Board of Nursing summarily suspended Brewster’s license to practice in that state on March 22, 19 days after Raleigh General filed a report alleging she had misappropriated drugs and tampered with medications.
“Raleigh General Hospital disposed of many vials of Dilaudid in order to protect patients from contamination,” the West Virginia license suspension report reads. It adds that Raleigh General, like JCMC before it, notified law enforcement and provided vials to be tested for tampering.
Following the West Virginia action, the Tennessee Board of Nursing initiated action against Brewster, initially setting an August 24 disciplinary hearing date for possible suspension, probation or revocation of her Tennessee license, which is granted through the Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact. Brewster is officially licensed in Kentucky with an October 2022 expiration date, but several dozens of states participate in the compact.
Tennessee Department of Health spokesman Bill Christian told News Channel 11 Monday the board of nursing has decided to meet on April 29 to consider summarily suspending Brewster’s multistate privilege in Tennessee — something it did have the authority to do when the allegations were first reported last year.
Matt Keller of the First Judicial District Attorney Ken Baldwin’s office investigated the JCMC case.