Pubdate: Wed, 19 Jun 2002
Source: Daily Independent, The (KY)
Copyright: 2002 The Daily Independent, Inc.
Author: Ben Fields, The Daily Independent


Stone: Town Getting Bad Reputation

SOUTH SHORE - Those who live and work in South Shore turned out Tuesday 
night to discuss with city leaders the prescription drug problem some feel 
is taking over the tiny town.

Every day, residents said, the city fills up with out-of-towners, some of 
whom trek more than 100 miles to get prescriptions for controlled 
substances from a cash-only doctor's office.

"My biggest problem is theft," said Cora Webb, an employee of a Family 
Dollar Store located next to Plaza Healthcare, where at least three doctors 
have been arrested or indicted in the past two years, including one last 
week, for misprescribing medicines.

Webb, who spoke out at a meeting of the South Shore Board of City 
Commissioners, said she's even seen people "doing drugs in the parking lot."

Tammy Warnock, a drive through teller at First & People's Bank, said she 
has to regularly decline cashing out-of-state checks from those whom she 
suspects come into the city to get prescriptions.

"When I tell them I can't cash their check, some of them say they need it 
for the doctor," Warnock said. "They get upset and start using a lot of 
profanity. I just turn my speaker off."

A security guard for South Shore Pharmacy, which has been subject to 
repeated break-in attempts over the past few years, talked about the 
problem after the meeting. On a daily basis, he said, he sees the parking 
lot full of cars that sport out-of-state or out-of-county license plates.

"They're all out-of-towners. That's my biggest gripe," said the guard, who 
asked to remain anonymous. "I tell them they need to find a pharmacy in 
their own town."

In the past two years, at least six doctors who at one time or another 
practiced medicine in the town have been arrested or had their licenses 
suspended by the state Board of Medical Licensure.

The latest on the list was Rodolfo Santos, who was both stripped of his 
license and arrested last week on seven felony counts of prescribing a 
controlled substance for a non-medical purpose.

He is also believed by the medical board to be connected with the deaths of 
seven of his patients - all of whom died of apparent drug overdoses.

Santos told an investigator with the medical board that the clinic's 
patients - all of whom he defined as addicts - frequently traveled large 
distances to visit his practice.

City Commissioner Ron Stone said he is pleased when law enforcement 
authorities are able to crack down on operations like Santos', but added he 
would like to see the problem controlled.

"Every time they take a bad doctor out, two more come in and take his 
place," Stone said. "I want to know what we can do. Tell me what the 
difference is between one of these doctors and a drug dealer? And these 
people are operating right next to our (McKell) schools."

Stone said the problem with the doctors is creating a bad reputation for 
South Shore, and creating a situation "where someone is going to get hurt."

Mayor Mike Ratliff said he would like to step up police surveillance of 
suspect areas, but with only a handful of police officers and a limited 
budget, it's not possible.

"It would be nice if we had 24-hour police protection, but with our budget 
we can't afford it," he said.

Russell Mayor Don Fraley, on hand for Tuesday's meeting, said South Shore's 
problem is not a local one.

Fraley, who oversees outreach centers - including the one in South Shore - 
for King's Daughters Medical Center and also sits on the FIVCO Area Drug 
Enforcement task force board of directors, said there are organizations 
that pick out doctors and pharmacists to run operations like the one in 
South Shore.

"You have a group of investors, and they hire a doctor to see 100 patients 
a day and write prescriptions for money, and they hire a pharmacist to fill 
those prescriptions," he said. "The problem isn't South Shore ... it's a 

City commissioners said they would investigate whether they can set up 
guidelines for physicians entering the city to try and reduce the problem.

In the meantime, Commissioner Julie Bentley said city residents and elected 
officials need to keep doing what they always do.

"We have to keep calling our law enforcement when we see these things going 
on, and let them handle it," she said. "And the citizens need to feel safe 
to call the authorities."
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager