Mount Carmel Health System announced Thursday that CEO Ed Lamb will resign at the end of the month, following an investigation into "excessive" painkiller dosing by a former doctor. The hospital also fired 23 employees, including five members of the management team, involved in the cases.
"These last months have been difficult for our healthcare system, and, in times such as these, new leadership has the ability to facilitate healing and help restore the trust of the community," Lamb said in a statement.
Firings And Resignations
Lamb's resignation marks the latest fallout from the firing of William Husel, an ICU doctor and anesthesiologist who is accused of giving higher-than-normal amounts of painkillers to 35 patients. All the patients died after receiving the doses.
Mount Carmel suspended Husel from patient care in the fall and fired him in December.
Since announcing Husel's firing in January, Mount Carmel placed dozens of employees on leave and launched an internal investigation into the doctor's conduct and its own pharmaceutical practices.
“We have also taken a careful case-by-case examination of the role of every colleague who was a part of the medication and administration of the affected patients, and the members of the management involved in oversight of those colleagues," Lamb said in a video provided by the hospital.
As a result of that review, Mount Carmel says it is firing 23 employees, including five members of the physician, nursing and pharmacy management teams. Those terminations are effective Thursday.
One employee will remain on administrative leave, while another 11 will be allowed to return to work after completing additional training and education. The hospital did not state what that training will entail.
Lamb says he will leave his role on July 25, after which parent company Trinity Health will appoint an interim leader. Lamb has worked for Mount Carmel since November 2016.
"This was a difficult decision," Lamb said in the video. "I truly want the best for this organization, for our colleagues and for the people we serve."
In a statement, Trinity Health president and CEO Mike Slubowski thanked Lamb for his service.
"I appreciate Ed’s commitment to our Mission and to the people we serve," Slubowski wrote. "As CEO, he advanced Mount Carmel’s ambulatory and medical group strategy. He led improvements in colleague engagement and the expansion of our hospital network, and he strengthened our population health and community health and well-being programs throughout the region."
Lamb also announced that Chief Clinical Officer Richard Streck will retire at the end of September.
Hospital In Jeopardy
Facing pressure from federal agencies, Mount Carmel has undertaken a series of reforms since firing Husel.
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, with the Ohio Department of Health, launched a separate investigation into Mount Carmel in January. Both Mount Carmel West and Mount Carmel St. Ann's were found in violation of federal regulations surrounding pharmaceutical practices and building safety.
Among the problems identified were policy deficiencies around the use of fentanyl, and failed safeguards in the medication dispensing system.
"Based on an interview and record review," the report reads, "the hospital failed to ensure a system was in place to monitor and prevent large doses of central nervous system medications from being accessed from the automated medication dispensing system."
Investigators also determined the facility “failed to prevent patients from receiving an overdose” from medications like fentanyl.
After submitting corrective action plans, both hospitals have since been cleared of problems and are no longer in danger of losing federal funding.
Mount Carmel still faces dozens of civil lawsuits filed by the families of Husel's patients. The lawsuits name nurses and pharmacists, as well as the hospital and Husel, as defendants. Mount Carmel has already spent millions settling some of those lawsuits, while several others plan to take the cases to court.
"We are deeply sorry for the additional grief and frustration this has caused and we are working to provide reasonable settlements with affected families," Lamb said in the video. "We will continue to be forthcoming on changes we make to our system to strengthen patient safety and quality of care. However, we will not be able to comment on the legal cases except through the legal forum."
Husel, meanwhile, remains the subject of one of the largest murder cases in Ohio history.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said his office, Columbus Police and medical experts found Husel’s actions prematurely ended the lives of his patients.
“I likened it to the burning down of a candle,” O’Brien said at a June news conference. “That candle, while there may just be a half an inch of wax left, if I blow that candle out I’m causing that flame to go out sooner than it would naturally.”
Though Mount Carmel identified 35 patients affected by the dosing, O’Brien is only bringing murder charges for the 25 instances where patients received 500 micrograms or more of fentanyl. However, O’Brien won’t charge nurses and pharmacists as Husel’s co-conspirators, arguing that they were just acting on the doctor’s orders.
Two Mount Carmel employees echoed those sentiments in an interview with WOSU in January.
“We have the ability to speak up because we have a license and I understand that, but our doctor is our expert and they’re guiding the care," said one employee, who requested their name be withheld for fear of losing their job.
One employee said he asked Husel about the high doses, but Husel gave an explanation he deemed reasonable. The employee says he followed Husel's orders.
Husel's medical license was suspended in January. He is scheduled to appear in front of the State Medical Board on July 22 to appeal that suspension, and to fight against its possible revocation. That hearing will be open to the public.
This story will be updated with more information as the story develops.
If you have information to share about the Mount Carmel investigation, please contact WOSU at firstname.lastname@example.org.