LAGRANGE, Ga. - Two former employees say they reported a LaGrange dentist to the state for practicing while intoxicated and quit when an investigation didn’t surface.
They’re coming forward amid a series of Channel 2 reports about what’s now dozens of patient complaints that for months, the dentist has been paid and has billed insurance for procedures he misses without notice.
The dentist and a woman with whom he’s connected have told Channel 2 patient issues will be resolved once they’ve dealt with personal issues that have caused them to be absent from the office, but they did not indicate a timeline to reopen.
After consulting with other former employees, one of the ex-employees agreed to speak with Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr on conditions of anonymity to the public and voice altering for the television story.
“We told them (the state) he was drinking, that he was intoxicated while performing procedures on these patients,” the ex-employee said,"And it wasn't that he had just had one drink. It was that he was intoxicated. You could smell it on him. His hands would shake so bad he couldn't write out prescriptions, and he's in these people's mouths workin' on 'em."
The employees say they quit the Greenwood Family Dental practice in early May largely because of
Tyrer’s alleged intoxication along with that of another employee that served in an executive assistant/office manager role.
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“Did you witness him drinking in the office?” Carr asked.
“Yes, there were times when they would walk in there with beer bottles in their hands, and we would have to tell them, "We have patients, y'all need to go somewhere,'” the former employee said.
“And what would the response be?” Carr asked.
“Well it depends on how much they had been drinking,” the former employee replied. "Sometimes if they just started, you know, it would be like, OK, they'll go back to the office or whatever, but then other times, they'd be like, "I don't care."
That employee said they hit a dead end when several employees contacted the state dental board.
The board has no record of public actions against Tyrer but cannot confirm to Channel 2 whether previous complaints have been filed, citing a state law that only allows the release of public action items.
“The state's response was he's allowed to have alcohol in in his office since it is a private practice,” the former employee said. “Of course, they said he is not allowed to drink alcohol while performing procedures, but they said we would have to have proof that he was drinking alcohol while performing procedures and at that point we're like-what are we supposed to do, ask him to walk in and blow something for us?”
Several staff members quit in May, and Channel 2 continues filter calls from patients who say no one will answer the phone and doors remain locked amid scheduled appointments.
The dental board sent Channel 2 the following statement, saying they don’t require evidence to begin investigating claims:
“Complainants who call are advised of the process by which to submit electronic or written complaints as well as any additional documents,” the statement read. “ It is not required that proof or evidence be provided with any complaint. As stated in a previous email, the Board gives serious consideration to each and investigates as warranted.”
RESPONSE FROM DENTIST
Carr reached out to Tyrer, and a woman who wanted to remain unidentified answered the call, agreed to a recording and said Tyrer was not with her at the time.
“I don't know the employees you're speaking of,” she said, “I don't know if they're disgruntled. I don't know why they would say things like that. Dr. Tyrer has never, ever, ever performed on any patient intoxicated, because I was there.”
“If there was a problem, then the dental board would have definitely, definitely, without a doubt, came, investigated, which would have been fine. Would have been fine,” she repeated.
The woman said the news coverage has been unfair to their family, echoing remarks Tyrer made earlier in the week, when he told Carr anyone owed money would get it and to “get the hell out” of his life or there would be “consequences. ”
The comments were made during a roughly five-minute phone call.
The woman said the family had dealt with multiple deaths in the past year. She also said they planned on having a former employee arrested for stealing from them.
But when Carr asked about the lack of office closure notification to paid patients over several months, she indicated they were beside themselves and could not post notification on the door.
She said someone is still working the office, although patients continue to say they can’t get anyone on the line.
“The insurance is not going to pay until the work’s done,” she said. "If they want to go, they can go somewhere else. If they’ve paid any money towards anything that’s fine, we will reimburse them. We don’t have a problem with that.”
On Wednesday and Thursday, she took to Facebook to tag 95 people in a post with Carr’s cell number, encouraging them to call.
By Thursday, two women had called and left a message or sent a text to say Tyrer had done free work for them in the past and had always been a good dentist to them.
“He’s grieving and hurting right now, and I know that you’ve edited a lot of things, and you’ll probably edit this conversation, as well and that’s fine,” the woman said.
“Yes, we have to,” Carr replied, referring to their 20-minute phone call.
“I’m not trying to be rude. I know you edit and put in whatever you feel like’s gonna make headlines for you, and I understand that, but I want to say I appreciate the free advertising,” she replied. “Because that’s basically what we’ve gotten. I think what I was told is he’s gotten more phone calls for appointments than he’s ever gotten before.”