Health system, heal thyself

We go to hospitals to get well, not to be killed by incompetence or worse. State and federal governments have a critical role in protecting us in that regard.

Federal officials have notified Mount Carmel Health, of Columbus, that Medicare will cease paying for patients at two of the firm’s hospitals unless a plan to avoid deaths such as those which occurred between 2015-18 is submitted. Good. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should demand absolute guarantees.

During that period, 34 patients at the two hospitals died after Dr. William Husel prescribed excessive doses of fentanyl as a painkiller. Apparently no one questioned his judgment.

Fentanyl, of course, is a narcotic sometimes mixed with heroin and other opiates. Overdoses have killed thousands of people. But, used properly, the drug can be an effective means of alleviating pain.

Husel was fired in December, according to a published report. Nearly two dozen Mount Carmel Health employees have been placed on leave while an investigation proceeds.

Depending on their levels of culpability, each and every one who could have done something about Husel’s errors should be punished. The episode should serve as a reminder to health care professionals that even the physicians who issue orders can be wrong — and need to be told or, if necessary, reported to superiors. Any system in which that is not done needs to be shut down.

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