How might Ohio better regulate hospitals following allegations that an intensive care doctor ordered excessive painkiller doses for dozens of patients who then died?
That's the question facing officials in Ohio, the only state that doesn't license general hospitals.
Being that exception makes no sense, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine told the Columbus Dispatch.
Ohio does require such facilities to be inspected and accredited every three years, and certain parts, such as maternity wards, are licensed. But officials are asking whether more is needed in light of the situation in the Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System.
Mount Carmel acknowledged in recent months that a now-fired doctor, William Husel, ordered potentially fatal drug doses for 29 patients over several years, and doses for six more that were excessive but likely not what caused their deaths. He is accused of bypassing existing safeguards and approval processes.
"We owe this to the citizens in the state of Ohio to be able to look at a situation and say 'Look, what have we learned from this tragedy?'" DeWine said.
State regulations are being reviewed to determine what changes might be recommended to lawmakers, he said. The Ohio Nurses Association is looking at that, too.
The hundreds of existing state and federal regulations for hospitals are overwhelming, Ohio Hospital Association spokesman John Palmer said. Any discussion about changes should consider whether the issues involved already are addressed, he said.
Mount Carmel has said it changed its medication protocols after discovering the concerns about Husel's prescribing practices and the patient deaths, which are under investigation .
Husel and the hospital system face at least 27 related wrongful-death lawsuits.
In its first responses filed this week in two cases, Mount Carmel denied claims of negligence and liability. It said in a separate statement Tuesday that it is obligated to deny allegations or speculations inconsistent with records, but that its legal filings acknowledge its responsibility for not having processes in place to prevent what happened.
Responses filed in some cases by Husel's lawyer deny that the doctor negligently or intentionally caused patients' deaths and argue he has immunity and isn't liable for damages in those cases under several provisions of state law.