A nurse who formerly worked in the Mount Carmel West Intensive Care Unit, alongside Dr. William Husel, said he had heard other nurses question some of the doctor’s orders.
“Anytime I heard anybody ask him about it, he would give them an explanation,” said the nurse, who asked not to be identified. “He was our expert. He knew more than any of us about how the drugs work and all that.”
According to Mount Carmel leaders, Husel ordered excessive doses of medications for at least 34 patients, many of whom died as a result of the orders.
Both Husel and Mount Carmel currently face 16 wrongful death lawsuits, while a criminal investigation is also ongoing.
So far, no charges have been filed.
The unnamed nurse said Husel was often the only doctor working the overnight shift, in the ICU. The nurse described him as somewhat of a mentor to colleagues.
“If you’re ever concerned about something with your patient, he would take the time to explain things to you if you had questions,” the nurse said. “He would sit down if there was some slow times and he would talk to you about why we treat certain things, certain ways — just background stuff you didn’t really need to know for your job, but would help kind of explain why you’re doing what you’re doing.”
The nurse has not been named in any wrongful death lawsuits, but he said many of his former nursing colleagues have been named.
“I know their intentions in terms of doing work for their patients, and how much they care about the work that they do and doing a good job,” he explained. “It’s hard to see people go through this.”
NBC4 has spoken with numerous doctors, nurses and pharmacists all of whom agree many of the doses of pain medication allegedly ordered by Dr. Husel, and administered to patients would likely cause death.
Mount Carmel has declined to comment on individual cases. The hospital previously released the following statement:
Mount Carmel recently reported to authorities, the results of an internal investigation regarding the care provided by a doctor who, until recently, worked with patients requiring intensive care.
During the five years he worked here, this doctor ordered significantly excessive and potentially fatal doses of pain medication for at least 27 patients who were near death.
These patients’ families had requested that all life-saving measures be stopped, yet the amount of medicine the doctor ordered was more than what was needed to provide comfort.
On behalf of Mount Carmel and Trinity Health, our parent organization, we apologize for this tragedy, and we’re truly sorry for the additional grief this may cause these families. Our team has contacted these families and will continue to answer their questions and concerns as best as we can.
Following our discovery, we addressed related patient safety issues. We removed this doctor from all patient care and terminated his employment. We reported this situation to the appropriate authorities, including law enforcement. We changed processes to help ensure this event does not happen again.
We’re working hard to learn all we can about these cases, and we removed 20 hospital staff from providing further patient care while we gather more facts. This includes a number of nurses who administered the medication and a number of staff pharmacists who were also involved in the related patient care.
Mount Carmel provides compassionate care that takes into account the decisions of patients and their families. We believe in helping patients who are near death die peacefully and naturally.
The actions instigated by this doctor were unacceptable and inconsistent with the values and practices of Mount Carmel, regardless of the reasons the actions were taken. We take responsibility for the fact that the processes in place were not sufficient to prevent these actions from happening. We’re doing everything to understand how this happened and what we need to do to ensure it never happens again. We’re joined in this effort by leaders of Trinity Health and we’ve asked outside experts to assist us.
Our integrated team is identifying immediate root causes to ensure that our best-practice care guidelines are followed. So far, these include a new escalation policy for increases in pain medication dosing and a new approval process for pain medication at high doses during similar situations.
For many years, Mount Carmel has worked to reduce medical errors and create a culture in which staff report concerns. In particular, over the past 18 months, we have engaged in ZeroHarm and High-Reliability training to stop preventable medical errors—work that puts systems into place to make the care we provide highly reliable and consistent. This focus on high-reliability helped us to discover these events because one of our employees spoke up and reported a safety concern.
Despite our meaningful progress in building a high-reliability organization, we recognize we have more work to do. We’re committed to making sure our employees work in an environment where they have the right to speak-up—without fear of retribution.
As with everything we do, we will continue to rely on our values to guide us in responding to these events. We will continue to do the right thing, to act with integrity and be transparent.
While these actions have brought shock and hurt to our organization, this will not define us.
Our more than 11,000 employees at Mount Carmel are outstanding professionals committed to safe, high-quality, people-centered care. Together, we will find strength in the values and beliefs we’re known for.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the involved patients and their families, and we ask for their forgiveness.
We will learn from this, and we will do better—because our patients and their families deserve our very best.