HHS watchdog who reported medical shortages to testify before House panel next week

May 20, 2020
In The News

The top official at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) watchdog agency will testify before the House Oversight Committee next week, according to a congressional aide.

Christi Grimm, the HHS principal deputy inspector general, will testify during a remote briefing May 26. 

Her office drew the ire of President Trump when it found severe shortages of medical supplies in hospitals during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oversight Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) has held a series of closed-door briefings with administration officials about shortages of testing supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE). However, House Democrats have been largely blocked by the administration from having officials testify in public.  

The briefing will address the report on hospital challenges in the pandemic, planned work on other aspects of the administration’s coronavirus response, and the HHS IG’s role as a member of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, according to the aide.

Grimm's report, issued in early April, was based on a survey of 323 randomly selected hospitals across the country. It found "severe" shortages of tests and wait times as long as seven days for hospitals. 

It also found "widespread" shortfalls of protective equipment such as masks for health workers, something that doctors and nurses have also noted for weeks.

The report was not meant as a review of how HHS conducted its coronavirus response, but was intended to give a snapshot of how hospitals were faring to give the agency guidance.

However, the report drew backlash from Trump, as it contradicted his claims that hospitals had more than enough supplies and that the U.S. had no problems with coronavirus testing. Trump spent two days attacking Grimm and the report, calling it "wrong" and "another Fake Dossier."

During a White House briefing, he asked the name of the inspector general and suggested the report was politically motivated because Grimm worked in the Obama administration. He later lashed out on Twitter.

Grimm is a longtime HHS staffer who first joined the IG's office in 1999. She took over as acting head of the agency in January.

Late at night on May 1, Trump moved to replace Grimm, announcing a new nominee to take the permanent inspector general post. The move was one of several Trump has taken to fire or replace inspector generals in recent months. 

The HHS IG's office had been without a confirmed nominee since Daniel Levinson stepped down a year ago.