HHS Watchdog Defends Report About Coronavirus Crisis In Hospitals

Christi Grimm, a Department of Health and Human Services official whose report revealing supply shortages in hospitals battling coronavirus across the United States angered President Donald Trump, defended her work during a House committee hearing on Tuesday. 

“The report provided quick and reliable data from the ground,” Grimm said during a teleconference with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Tuesday. “The goal of the work was to help provide comprehensive information from the front lines at a time of national crisis.”

Grimm, who currently serves as the principal deputy inspector general for HHS, released a report in April outlining the “substantial challenges” hospitals have faced in obtaining the supplies and funding needed to combat coronavirus. For example, the report found that “hospitals reported that they were unable to keep up with COVID-19 testing demands because they lacked complete kits and/or the individual components and supplies needed to complete tests.”

When the report was released, Trump, who has attempted to muzzle health officials and tamp down reports conveying the grim realities about the pandemic and its costs, called it “Another Fake Dossier!” in a Twitter rant. 

Grimm has served as the agency’s inspector general since the previous inspector general, Daniel Levinson, resigned in June 2019. On May 2, the White House announced Jason Weida, a U.S. attorney in Boston, as Trump’s nomination to replace Grimm as the lead watchdog at HHS.

Although Grimm noted Tuesday that she had been preparing for Trump to nominate a permanent replacement for Levinson, a number of health advocates and Democratic lawmakers see the move as Trump’s latest effort to purge an inspector general he deems disloyal to him personally.

Grimm is the fifth inspector general Trump has removed in the past two months.  

Speaking before the House Tuesday, she defended calls for inspectors general to remain independent from political influence. 

“It’s what allows us to bring our objective judgment to bear on problems without worrying whether those who run the programs are hearing what they want to hear,” she said.

“Anything that is done that could impair independence, I think, compromises the effectiveness of oversight of programs that are there to serve the American public.”

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