Mount Carmel: 34 patients received potentially fatal doses; 3 died after hospital was aware of allegations

File Photo - Mount Carmel West Hospital (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh Huggins)
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COLUMBUS – Mount Carmel officials announced Thursday that the number of patients who received potentially fatal doses of fentanyl from a former doctor has now climbed to 34.

Of the 34, 28 are suspected of receiving lethal doses. Six are believed to have received amounts that went “beyond providing comfort” but likely did not die as a result of the drugs, the hospital said in an updated statement.

Mount Carmel hospital officials also admitted something else – it failed to act quickly enough to remove Dr. William Husel.

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Three patients died after the hospital received a formal report on Oct. 25 making allegations regarding Dr. Husel’s care, according to the hospital’s updated statement.

The hospital admits it did not remove Husel from patient care until Nov. 21 – four weeks later.

“…We should have begun a more expedited process to investigate and consider immediate removal of Dr. Husel from patient care at that time. Dr. Husel was removed from patient care on November 21, 2018,” the statement read. “We are sorry for this tragedy, and we will continue to investigate how we responded to this report and whether there is any other information that should have led us to investigate sooner into Dr. Husel’s practices.”

Four wrongful death lawsuits have been filed – and a fifth was expected Thursday – that have alleged that Dr. Husel, a critical care anesthesiologist, ordered “grossly inappropriate” or excessive amounts of fentanyl be administered to near death or intensive care patients.

The hospital had said that while the patients’ families had agreed that all life-saving measures order measures be stopped, the amount of medicine the doctor ordered was more than what was need to provide comfort.

Attorney Gerry Leeseberg says he still has questions for the hospitals – including the validity of some of those do not resuscitate orders.

Leeseberg told reporters Thursday that he represents the families of 12 patients and that their cases vary. Some were told their loved ones were brain dead and others were told the pain medications were being administered only for pain management purposes.

10 Investigates has learned that several of the patients identified were on ventilators and were being given high doses of medication while the ventilators were being removed.

Leeseberg alleged that Dr. Husel was declaring some of the situations to be emergent as a means to bypass getting authorization from the hospital’s pharmacy.

“It’s our understanding Dr. Husel was claiming emergencies as an exception to that would allow inappropriate doses to be administered or be ordered without some question. Why is no one conducting an audit to verify that these so-called emergencies were actual emergencies,” Leeseberg said.

10 Investigates confirmed Wednesday from a hospital spokesman that one of the hospital’s policy changes in wake of the scandal is that nurses and physicians are now required to get pharmacy approval before administering drugs during the removal of ventilators.

The hospital also stated that “We are investigating whether Dr. Husel ordered excessive doses of medication when there was still opportunity to explore if there were reversible causes of patients’ immediate conditions.”

A hospital spokeswoman did not respond to repeated calls seeking clarity.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost also called on the state’s medical board to suspend Dr. Husel’s license.

“It looks like we’ve got a killer with a medical license and access to fentanyl on the loose,

I think a quick and necessary step is to yank his license to practice medicine,”

Husel has not been charged with a crime and has declined in the past to comment. So have his attorneys. Messages left this week have not been returned. And additional attempts to reach Husel have been unsuccessful.

If the state medical board were to suspend Husel’s license, it would set up the possibility that he could appear at an administrative hearing in the next 15 days.

10 Investigates first broke this story on January 14. If you or your loved are involved or may have information, we want to hear from you. Email us at 10Investigates@10tv.com

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