Mount Carmel patient families react to news of murder charges against Husel

File photo - Mount Carmel West (WBNS-10TV)
Mount Carmel patient families react to news of murder charges against Husel
Families looking for justice and closure
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COLUMBUS (WBNS) – Jim Allen left work to stand outside the Franklin County jail Wednesday morning with his sister, Lisa Coleman.

They said they had to be here.

“I was at work today. I don't know. I got some text that this was on the news, it just kind of flooded my emotions, and it just slapped me in face and it became even more real,” Allen said.

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They wanted to catch a glimpse of Dr. William Husel being brought into jail. They watched as a Columbus Division of Police pulled into the jail.

Husel was charged Wednesday with 25 counts of murder related to the deaths of Mount Carmel patients between 2014 and 2018.

“Today is a good day,” Lisa Coleman said. “We want to do this for our father, and for the other patients who couldn't be here today, work or not able to, or just couldn't stomach this today. I want him to know we are not afraid and not going to back down. We are going to be at every court hearing. We want justice for our father and for the other patients.”

Coleman’s father, Jim Allen, was one of 35 patients to have received an excessive dose of pain medication while under the care of Dr. William Husel.

Brothers Jacob, Jeremy, Robert and Stephen Hodge sit at a table in a cramped room inside a Columbus law office, Wednesday.

They say what they miss the most is everything about their mother.

"Everything," Jeremy said. "Visiting, family dinners, family gatherings...everything."

Sue Hodge was their mother. She was a former patient of Dr. William Husel. Her sons say in April of 2018 she was admitted to the hospital thinking she had a heart attack, but it was later determined that wasn't the case. Hours later, they say, she was dead after receiving 800 micrograms of fentanyl under Husel's care.

"I don't have any bad wishes on him, but I'm sure he's going to get what he deserves," Christopher Thomas said.

Thomas' mother, Jan, was another former patient who died in 2015 under Husel's care. Thomas says even with the indictment, closure is still a long way's away.

David Austin says every time he closes his eyes, he sees his wife of 37 years, Bonnie.

"[She was] the love of my life," he said, holding back tears.

In September, Bonnie went to Mount Carmel after having a heart attack and a collapsed lung. A short time later, he says, she was dead.

"I lost it," he said. "I just lost it."

He says he didn't think to blame Dr. Husel at the time. After all, he says Husel was the doctor and Austin thought he knew what he was doing. Now that trusted doctor sits in jail awaiting his day in court. Austin says he'll be there, too.

"Oh yeah," he said. "I plan on being there, yes."

So will the Hodge brothers.

"I want to be there to see everything through for the comfort of me," Robert said.

Until then, these families wait and hope closure is on the horizon.

"One day at a time," Austin said. "Just take it one day at at time and see what happens."

Dr. Husel, whose medical license has been suspended by the state medical board, has been accused of ordering excessive doses of pain medications for patients who were in the intensive care unit.

Mount Carmel Health System fired Husel in December after an internal investigation raised questions and concerns about his patient care. Those concerns turned into 25 counts of murder on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said they chose to focus on patients who received 500 micrograms of fentanyl or more.

All of the patients died and all were in the intensive care unit at Mount Carmel under Husel’s care between 2014 and 2018.

Husel entered a not guilty plea during his court appearance Wednesday. His attorney, Richard Blake, said he did not intend to euthanize these patients and was providing “comfort care.”

The patient overdose scandal has rocked the Mount Carmel Health System – the federal agency in charge of patient safety and hospital oversight, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, had threatened to pull Mount Carmel’s Medicare funding in wake of the patient overdose scandal.

Mount Carmel has avoided that by installing a series of corrections that now limit how much medications can be given to patients and requiring pharmacy approval before medications are given when patients are being removed from ventilators.

Nearly all the patients were given the pain medications when they were being removed from the ventilators.

State health inspectors – acting on behalf of CMS – found that Husel used an override function to bypass the hospital’s pharmacy and gain access to large doses of fentanyl and other medications.

State health inspectors found that in 24 of the 27 patient cases they reviewed, Husel used an override function to gain access to the medications.

10 Investigates spoke Wednesday to Amy Pfaff, the daughter of Beverlee Schirtzinger, one of five Husel patients who the hospital says could have seen her condition improve with treatment. Her mother died on October 9, 2017 – one of two patients to receive a 500 microgram dose of fentanyl on the same day.

She disagreed with a question when asked if she considered Husel a “monster.”

“I think that is a harsh word, I wouldn't really label him as anything. I'm just kind of numb to him right now, and what he did to my mom. I would not say a monster, more or less just wanting to know why and I doubt that I will ever know why,” she said.

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