Hospital tightens drug access, rules after excessive dosages

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio hospital system that found a doctor ordered possibly fatal doses of powerful painkillers for dozens of patients has tightened policies and drug access to address problems in pharmaceutical services that jeopardized Medicare participation for two hospitals, according to corrective plans submitted to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The changes outlined for Mount Carmel West hospital in Columbus and Mount Carmel St. Ann's in suburban Westerville included further limiting when and how such medication can be accessed from an automated dispensing system using emergency orders outside of the usual protocols.

The federal agency on Tuesday released the plans submitted by Mount Carmel Health System after deeming them acceptable. It said the hospitals still would have to pass an unannounced check-up on the changes.

They were instituted in the wake of Mount Carmel's finding that intensive care doctor William Husel ordered excessive doses for 34 patients over several years, mostly at Mount Carmel West.

Husel was fired in December. His lawyers have declined to comment about the allegations.

Mount Carmel initially said affected patients were near death, but subsequently said it's investigating whether some received possibly lethal doses when there still might have been an opportunity to improve their conditions with treatment.

Local authorities are investigating. No charges have been announced.

Meanwhile, Husel and Mount Carmel face at least 16 wrongful-death lawsuits as families question whether hospital staff improperly ordered and administered drugs to hasten patients' deaths without their knowledge.

Attorneys said the latest lawsuit was filed Tuesday over the July 25, 2016, death of 67-year-old Sanders Young Jr. It alleges he received a lethal dose of fentanyl ordered by Husel and administered by a nurse.

Another case filed earlier alleges Mount Carmel West's chief pharmacy officer, Janet Whittey, knew about employees prescribing, approving and administering excessive painkiller doses but didn't stop it from recurring.

One of Whittey's attorneys, Justin Morocco, declined to comment Tuesday.

Whittey left the job on Feb. 5. Mount Carmel won't say whether her departure was voluntary or forced, and her email notification to the Board of Pharmacy gave no explanation.

Mount Carmel has publicly apologized and said after firing Husel that it put 23 more employees on leave pending further investigation, including 14 nurses, six pharmacists and managers. It hasn't named them or disclosed further details about them.

___

Follow Franko on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kantele10