Mount Carmel to get new leaders
The head of Mount Carmel Health System is retiring, and 23 people have been fired as the system concluded its investigation into a doctor accused of ordering potentially fatal doses of painkillers for dozens of patients.
In addition to the retirement of President and CEO Ed Lamb, who will leave July 25, Mount Carmel announced that Dr. Richard Streck, executive vice Lamb president and chief clinical officer, will retire at the end of September.
The 23 employees who have lost their jobs include five members of physician, nursing and pharmacy management Streck teams, Lamb said in a statement.
Lamb said his resignation comes as he is “personally compelled to do all that I can to move Mount Carmel beyond this tragedy.”
“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,” he said. “... This was a difficult decision, but one that is in the best interest of our organization, our colleagues and the people we serve.”
Lamb said Michigan-based Trinity Health, the Catholic Health system of which Mount Carmel is a part, will soon appoint an interim CEO and that he will work to ensure a smooth transition.
The announcement comes about six months after Mount Carmel first revealed findings of an investigation into Dr. William Husel, 43, of Liberty Township near Dublin.
Mount Carmel has said the investigation showed that Husel ordered high doses of painkillers for 35 seriously ill intensive-care patients over about four years at the former Mount Carmel West hospital in Franklinton and, in one case, at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s hospital in Westerville.
Husel was fired in December, and last month he was charged in Franklin County Common Pleas Court with 25 counts of murder involving patients who the doctor is accused of
hastening or causing their death. He has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer has said the physician was providing comfort care to end-of-life patients and did not intend to kill anyone.
Along with the 23 employees losing their jobs, Lamb said one employee remains on administrative leave. Eleven others currently on leave will be allowed to return after completing training and education.
The health system has completed its investigation into Husel’s patients, Lamb said, and made the employee decisions based on the roles they played in medication administration or oversight.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said the actions taken by Mount Carmel are welcome, as they mark the early stages of accountability.
“The Mount Carmel system is an important part of the central Ohio community, and these actions will help stabilize it so the medical teams — and the patients who rely on them — can look to the future,” Yost said.
Columbus Attorney David Shroyer, who is representing family members of Husel’s patients in four wrongfuldeath suits, said the hospital’s decision to fire staff members is an admission that they failed those who died under the doctor’s care.
“It says to me they are recognizing there was a
systematic failure in prevention and protecting patients against a rogue physician,” Shroyer said. “The question I have is ‘What took so long?’ They have known for over eight months.”
Shroyer also said the personnel moves still don’t answer the most important questions families have for the hospital.
“One of the things the families want to know is how did this happen and what really went wrong and how we can ensure this doesn’t happen in the future,” Shroyer said. “And firing a few people doesn’t answer those questions.”
Anne Valentine, a partner at the Leeseberg and Valentine firm representing the families of several Husel patients, said Mount Carmel is taking action but not being transparent.
“No one is surprised that this happened,” she said. “And when people fail to do their jobs, it’s indicative of the flaws in your system, but they have not been forthcoming with any information about those failures beyond what they have said at the beginning.”
Valentine said Mount Carmel has not answered questions asked by her firm and has refused to respond to motions for evidence in civil cases.
Gerald Leeseberg, the other partner at Leeseberg and Valentine, said the firings
show that Husel alone is not culpable in the overdoses.
“This just confirms our suspicion that this is far larger and deeper than Dr. Husel,” Leeseberg said. “This was an institutional failure.”
He believes the firings will open up a flow of information about the case.
“In spite of Mount Carmel’s public denouements, they have resisted our ability as attorneys to conduct our own formal investigation,” he said Thursday at a news conference. “That effort was just rejected by the courts, and Mount Carmel had been ordered to make these people available to us so we can find out answers as to why this happened.”
Mount Carmel has previously said that 48 pharmacists and nurses had been reported to licensing boards, including 30 who were still with the health system.
The state Board of Nursing has issued notices to 25 nurses, saying they could lose their licenses for their roles in the care of Husel patients. A spokeswoman said nine have scheduled hearings.
The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy has taken no public action.
The State Medical Board of Ohio has suspended Husel’s license, and he faces an October hearing.
Lamb said the health system has implemented many changes and will continue to work to strengthen its culture of safety and reinforce that employees “have a right to speak up about safety concerns and are expected to do so.”
In a message to leaders, Trinity Health President and CEO Mike Slubowski said he appreciates Lamb’s commitment to the system’s mission and the people it serves.
“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,” Slubowski said.
The Husel investigation isn’t the only issue faced by Lamb in recent months.
On May 31, the Ohio Department of Health ordered Mount Carmel to take immediate action to contain a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at its Grove City hospital, which had opened about a month earlier.
At least 16 people, including one woman who died, were diagnosed with the disease.