Policy changes come to Mount Carmel amid lawsuits

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Nurses and physicians at Mount Carmel West Hospital now cannot administer medications during the removal of a ventilator without prior approval from the pharmacy, a hospital spokesman confirms to 10 Investigates.

That confirmation comes among other policy changes at Mount Carmel Health System in wake of the recent scandal.

10 Investigates broke the news last week that 27 near-death or intensive care patients are believed to have been given lethal doses of fentanyl.

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Sources have told 10 Investigates that several of the patients were in the process of being removed from ventilators when they were given “grossly inappropriate” doses of the painkiller, fentanyl.

Four wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against the Dr. William Husel, the hospital and various nurses and pharmacists. Additional lawsuits have been threatened.

The lawsuits allege that Husel ordered “grossly inappropriate” amounts of fentanyl that were given to near-death or intensive care patients.

The complaints also allege pharmacists in some cases fulfilled or that nurses helped administered the drugs.

But attorneys have raised concerns that might have not happened in every case.

“There's been some suggestion that the override was used in this case. That's to be used in emergency situation. An elective removal of life support is not an emergent situation. But by doing that, it allows the physician — in ordering the nurse to do that — to bypass the pharmacy. And the question is, were those being reviewed by pharmacists who came in later?” Attorney David Shroyer told 10 Investigates Wednesday.

Among the additional policy changes, 10 Investigates has learned, include a new escalation policy for increases in pain medication dosing and a new approval process for the use of pain medications at high doses in “like situations.”

The hospital has not defined what “like situations” are.

Several questions remain about what the hospital knew and when it knew it.

A hospital spokeswoman has said that it first became aware of an allegation regarding patient care in late October and received additional information in late November and took prompt action. Husel has been fired from his position as an intensive care anesthesiologist and 20 caregivers — including 14 nurses and 6 pharmacists — were removed from patient care.

Husel and his attorneys have declined to comment.

Mount Carmel CEO and President Ed Lamb has apologized to patient families and acknowledged that “the processes in place were not sufficient to prevent these actions from happening,” he said in a video statement that was released to the public Jan. 14.

But in a separate video aimed directly at Mount Carmel’s 11,000 employees, Lamb appeared to offer comfort to employees while also laying blame.

“As you can imagine, the tragic news has caused many tears and anguish throughout our Mount Carmel family. The physician’s actions were unacceptable and inconsistent with our mission and values,” Lamb said in the video obtained exclusively by 10 Investigates. “Sadly, our investigation revealed that some of our colleagues did not meet our standard of care. The actions that created this tragedy were instigated by this physician and carried out by a small number of people who made poor decisions. They ignored the safe guards we have in place.”

Lamb went on to thank the whistleblower employee who came forward.

“To the colleague who had the courage who had the courage to speak up and make a voice report, thank you for doing the right thing,” Lamb said.

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