Police pledge ‘thorough investigation’ of patient deaths

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins - Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Law enforcement authorities on Thursday pledged a “thorough investigation” into allegations against an intensive-care doctor accused of ordering painkiller overdoses for dozens of Ohio hospital patients.

In addition, the state attorney general’s office confirmed it is conducting a Medicaid fraud investigation related to the doctor.

At issue are accusations against William Husel, a doctor fired by the Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System in December. The hospital found he ordered potentially fatal doses for 29 patients and doses for six more patients that were excessive but not likely what caused their deaths.

Police and prosecutors said Thursday they are investigating the 29 deaths, with dozens of interviews to be conducted. Those include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and patients’ families.

Investigators and then medical experts must also obtain and review thousands of pages of medical reports, said Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and Tim Becker, the acting Columbus police chief.

Authorities “intend to conduct a thorough investigation of complex ethical, medical, and legal issues,” the two said in a joint statement.

Husel voluntarily surrendered his passport to authorities during the investigation, according to Thursday’s statement. “We’re continuing to cooperate with the prosecutor’s office,” said Richard Blake, an attorney representing Husel.

Mount Carmel has apologized , put 23 other employees on leave and said it changed its medication protocols to prevent similar situations.

Information will be shared with authorities and family members as the hospital learns more, Mount Carmel said Thursday.

“The deaths of patients under the care of Dr. William Husel are tragic,” the hospital said in a statement. “The facts of these cases are complex, and the ongoing nature of the investigations means that new information can continue to surface.”

Mount Carmel operates four hospitals around Columbus. It is part of parent organization Trinity Health, one of the country’s largest Roman Catholic health care systems.

The investigation is being conducted with the state medical, pharmacy and nursing boards. The Medicaid fraud investigation is being conducted by Attorney General David Yost, said Yost spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle, without providing details.

Husel is set for a July hearing at the State Medical Board before it decides whether to take further action against his suspended license.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press