Pharmacy manager no longer employed at Mount Carmel

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COLUMBUS – Pharmacy manager Janet Whittey has left Mount Carmel hospital – marking at least the second person besides Dr. William Husel to leave Mount Carmel Health System since news broke of a scandal in which 34 patients are believed to have been given excessive or potentially lethal doses of pain medication.

Mount Carmel has publicly admitted it fired Dr. Husel on December 5 following an internal investigation.

A hospital spokeswoman would not confirm Whittey’s status of employment when 10 Investigates asked about it on Thursday.

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But internal emails between Whittey and the state board of pharmacy confirmed the news of her departure.

“Please be advised that my submission of responsible pharmacist at Mount Carmel West is no longer valid as I no longer work at Mount Carmel effective today,” Whittey wrote in a February 5 email to the state board of pharmacy.

Whittey was named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed this week.

The lawsuit alleges that Whittey "was aware of inappropriate and unsafe prescribing, approving, and administrating of Fentanyl by co-defendants, but failed to take action to prevent such inappropriate Fentanyl use from reoccurring.”

The lawsuit was filed by the family of 82-year old Melissa Penix, who died on Nov. 20, 2018. Attorney Craig Tuttle, who represents her family, said that Penix had been brought to the ICU, had pneumonia and that her family was encouraged by Dr. William Husel to remove her from a ventilator. It was after that decision was made, Tuttle says, that Penix was given 2,000 micrograms of fentanyl – the largest dose known to date.

What’s more concerning, Tuttle says, is that Penix’s family was told that her death triggered the hospital’s internal investigation. Tuttle says that’s curious because the hospital has publicly acknowledged that it first learned of an allegation involving Dr. Husel’s care through a “formal report” it received on October 25, 2018. The hospital would not remove Husel from patient care until Nov. 21, 2018. During that time period, three more patients – including Penix and Rebecca Walls – would die.

“They've admitted they knew. And they've admitted in the media that they should've done something sooner,” Tuttle said.

To date, 34 patients are believed to have received potentially lethal doses of fentanyl. Twenty-eight of the 34 patients, the hospital says, likely received fatal doses. The other six received doses that “went beyond providing comfort” but were likely not the causes for their deaths.

Husel has been accused in 14 wrongful death lawsuits of ordering “grossly inappropriate” and “excessive” doses of painkillers for patients at Mount Carmel West and Mount Carmel St. Ann’s in Westerville.

Various nurses and pharmacists have been named in the lawsuits accused of administering and approving the large potentially lethal doses.

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