Gov. DeWine calls for hospital oversight; Mount Carmel responds to lawsuits

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COLUMBUS — Governor Mike DeWine says there’s no reason Ohio should be the only state in the country that doesn’t have state regulations or licenses for its hospitals.

His comments come in wake of the patient overdosing scandal at Mount Carmel Health System, where 35 patients are believed to have received excessive or potentially fatal doses of pain medication over the past four years.

All of the patients died and all were under the care of Dr. William Husel.

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What exactly killed all the patients is being debated in 27 wrongful death lawsuits that have been leveled against the hospital and Husel.

During an appearance at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Wednesday, Gov. Mike DeWine was asked about if the state needs to regulate its hospitals.

“We have to regulate hospitals. We are the only state that’s not doing it. As we’ve seen with these recent tragedies, there’s a reason they regulate hospitals. How it’s done so that we do not impact the quality of care negatively is always a question,” DeWine said. “We need to do that. I’ve asked our team to look at how we can do that.”

DeWine’s comments come more than a month after the Ohio Nursing Association put out a statement in March calling for more regulation:

“As the only state in the nation that does not license its hospitals, it is time to re-examine how delivery of care is regulated in our state. Ohio patients deserve to have the confidence and trust that they will receive the best care. A system with such scant regulation and government oversight is not a system patients can trust.

ONA is committed to advocating for Ohio’s patients and for the best clinical environment for nurses to deliver their care. We want Ohio to be a safe and trusted state to receive the kind of health care our patients deserve.”

Mount Carmel Health System CEO and President Ed Lamb released a statement Wednesday, which read:

“We have said from the beginning, we are committed to ensuring something like this never happens again. The steps we have taken—and continue to take—are a reflection of this commitment. We know this situation touches on issues that clinical staff deal with in hospitals every day, and we plan to share our findings and our new processes to our peers throughout the country, to the extent we can. Not only do we never want this to happen again at Mount Carmel, we never want to see something like this happen in any other health care organization.

We welcome others to work towards that same goal—we actually encourage it.”

Reporters asked DeWine Wednesday if he recognized that any change, either in the form of executive order or through legislation, might be met with opposition by members of his own Republican party, to which the governor said: “No one likes regulations – we probably do have too many. But we are talking about public safety.”

Meanwhile, attorneys for Mount Carmel have responded to the wrongful death lawsuits by denying some of the allegations raised in the complaints, specifically stating that they could not give a medical opinion about fentanyl, which many of the patients received.

The response to the lawsuits appears to be contradictory to public statements made by the hospital, which has said that the amounts of pain medications given to patients were “excessive” and “went beyond providing comfort” and were, in some cases, “potentially fatal.”

A spokeswoman for Mount Carmel pointed 10 Investigates back to this statement, released by the hospital:

“Since we first learned of the deaths of patients under the care of Dr. Husel, we have been committed to doing the right thing for the families of these patients and for our communities, and that has meant being transparent even when it is difficult. Our legal filings are and will continue to be consistent with what we have said in public.

In every lawsuit filed against us, we’re representing the interests of Mount Carmel Health System while also publicly acknowledging responsibility for the fact that the processes we had in place were not sufficient to prevent Dr. Husel's actions from happening. That said, if a lawsuit presents allegations or speculations that are not consistent with the facts or circumstances of the events based on the records we have, we are obligated to respond to those inconsistencies by denying the claim.

Out of respect for these families' privacy, we will not provide further details about our conversations and related actions. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the affected families.”

There is also an effort to consolidate some of the lawsuits in front of one judge.

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