New GAO Report Reveals “Lack of Clarity” Behind Trump Administration’s Abrupt Decision to Divert Coronavirus Data from CDC
Aug 5, 2021
Washington, D.C. (August 5, 2021) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, issued the following statement in response to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) abrupt decision last year to sideline the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and launch a new portal—HHS Protect—to capture hospital coronavirus data:
“I am troubled by GAO’s findings that the Trump Administration’s abrupt and frequent changes to hospital data reporting requirements and failure to engage with stakeholders placed additional burdens on hospitals trying to save lives as the virus spread. These ill-conceived actions harmed the nation’s ability to respond to the pandemic, including efforts to allocate desperately needed resources. The Select Subcommittee will continue our investigations into the missteps that occurred under the prior Administration to determine what we must do to ensure they never happen again.”
As the pandemic unfolded, the Trump Administration instructed hospitals to divert critical information about patients and the spread of the coronavirus from CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) to HHS Protect and TeleTracking Technologies, Inc. (TeleTracking), a private contractor without any epidemiological expertise. Though the NHSN had served as a national public health data resource for more than a decade, HHS implemented the new system in April 2020 to compile key hospital data, such as the availability of ventilators, inpatient and intensive care beds, personal protective equipment, and therapies to treat the virus.
Today’s GAO report includes the following findings:
HHS Diverted Hospital Data Collection from CDC to Private Company After CDC Requested Time to Make Changes to NHSN to Comply with Legal Requirements.
The Trump Administration’s “Frequent and Significant Changes” to the Collection of Hospital Data Created “Multiple Challenges” and Added Burdensome Reporting Requirements on Hospitals During the Pandemic.
Some Public Health Stakeholders Question the Quality and Usefulness of HHS Protect Data.