Trump ousts health department inspector general over corona report

By on 05/05/2020
Trump has nominated Jason C Weida, who has been an assistant US attorney in Boston since 2016, for the role of inspector general at the HHS. (Photo by Tia Dufour, courtesy the White House via flickr).

President Trump has announced his intention to replace an inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), after the official’s report highlighted supply shortages and corona testing delays at hospitals across the country. The news comes as it emerged that 31 federal whistleblower complaints related to COVID-19 policymaking and service delivery have been filed with the US Office of Special Counsel.

Christi A Grimm, the HHS principal deputy inspector general, published a report last month revealing that hundreds of medical centres were struggling to obtain test kits, PPE and ventilators. The report – which was based on extensive interviews with hospitals in various states – angered Trump, who publicly lambasted Grimm during a press briefing last month and accused her of being politically biased. On 1 May Trump nominated Jason C Weida, who has been an assistant US attorney in Boston since 2016, for the role of inspector general at the HHS; the appointment awaits Senate approval.

Grimm, a career official who has also worked under the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations, took up her current role in an acting capacity in January after the previous acting inspector general stepped down. She declined to comment on Trump’s bid to replace her, according to the New York Times.  

Whistleblower complaints  

Last week, it was revealed that the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) had received 31 federal whistleblower disclosures related to COVID-19, and is investigating 15 official complaints that whistleblowers have been the subject of retaliation for voicing coronavirus-related concerns. Whistleblowers can file both a disclosure and a retaliation complaint.

The data was provided by the OSC – a federal agency through which government employees can officially blow the whistle on alleged wrongdoing – to the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) on Friday.

The OSC won’t discuss details about the cases but complaints from at least two whistleblowers – including Dr Rick Bright, whose case Global Government Forum covered last week – have been made public. Bright believes he was sidelined after resisting Trump’s promotion of what he called “potentially dangerous drugs”.

Another whistleblower, a Department of Health and Human Services official whose identity has not been made public, has filed a retaliation complaint to the OSC. She had disclosed concerns in late February about the lack of PPE and infection control training provided to government personnel in close contact with Americans who were evacuated from Wuhan, China.  

She said personnel were “not properly trained or equipped to operate in a public health emergency situation,” according to the Washington Post, and that “appropriate steps were not taken to quarantine, monitor, or test [the workers] during their deployment and upon their return home.” The official alleged she was improperly reassigned after raising concerns and was told that if she didn’t accept the reassignment, she would be fired.

Last month, president Trump fired the inspector general who alerted Congress to security service concerns over his conversation with the Ukrainian president that sparked the bid to impeach Trump. It also came to light in February that the Trump administration is planning to expel federal employees it believes are “actively working against” the president.  

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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