Federal health agency will not be terminating Mount Carmel West from Medicare on Friday

File photo - Mount Carmel West (WBNS-10TV)

COLUMBUS – An official with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirms to 10 Investigates that Mount Carmel West will not be terminated from participating in the Medicare program on Feb. 22 - as originally stated in a letter to the hospital.

An initial letter from CMS in January said if plans of correction were not accepted, the feds would terminate Medicare funding payments for Mount Carmel on Feb. 22.

A CMS official says the agency is still investigating and reviewing the results of follow-up site visits by inspectors.

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This means Mount Carmel West Medicare participation is in the clear for now.

Both Mount Carmel West and Mount Carmel St. Ann’s hospitals had been placed on “immediate jeopardy” status by CMS in wake of the scandal in which 34 patients are believed to have received excessive doses of pain medications. Thirty-three of the patients who died were at Mount Carmel West; one of the patients died at St. Ann’s in Westerville.

St. Ann’s status was not immediately known. A CMS official would not comment beyond this statement:

“CMS is currently reviewing the results of the most recent survey at Mount Carmel West. Consequently, CMS will not be terminating Mount Carmel West’s participation in the Medicare program on February 22. We will continue to provide updates as they become available.,” a CMS official told 10 Investigates Thursday.

The hospital has said that 28 of the 34 patients identified received potentially fatal doses of pain medications – while the other six were given doses that “went beyond providing comfort.”

In letters from CMS obtained by 10 Investigates, the initial surveys conducted by the Ohio Department of Health on behalf of CMS found that both Mount Carmel West and Mount Carmel St. Ann’s were in noncompliance with Medicare conditions for participation. The letters read in part “We have determined that the deficiencies are so serious they constitute an immediate threat to patient health and safety."

If the hospitals did not come back under compliance with the conditions by a certain time, their participation in the Medicare program will be terminated, meaning they could lose Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. The Ohio Department of Health began investigating Mount Carmel on behalf of CMS Jan. 15 — one day after 10 Investigates broke the news about concerns of patient care involving Dr. William Husel.

Last week, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it had accepted plans of correction for Mount Carmel West and St. Ann’s hospitals.

But the documents released in association with this announcement revealed damning details about what may have transpired inside the Mount Carmel Health System where 34 patients are believed to have received excessive doses of pain medications – 28 of which received potentially fatal doses.

Site inspectors from the state department of health – investigating on behalf of CMS - determined that “the hospital failed to ensure a system was in place to monitor and prevent large doses of central nervous system medications from being accessed from the automated medication dispensing system by overriding the warnings and prior approval of the pharmacist. This affected 27 patients at the hospital.”

A 10 Investigates review of the records show that in 24 of the 27 patient cases reviewed by state health inspectors – Dr. William Husel overrode the hospital’s internal system to gain access to pain medications prior to pharmacy approval.

Husel was fired by Mount Carmel on December 5 following an internal investigation by the hospital. Husel and his attorneys have declined to comment.

So far, 19 wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against the hospital, Husel and caregivers.

Attorneys representing those families have alleged that these large doses of pain medications hastened the patients’ deaths. But a Mount Carmel employee closely familiar with the investigation has said it will be hard to prove because the patients were near death and intensive care.

A hospital spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.