House seeks answers on PPE shortages at the beginning of coronavirus pandemic

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — House lawmakers Tuesday, during a virtual hearing, tried to get answers from a government watchdog about the Department of Health and Human Services, in particular, about a massive shortage in personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

HHS Inspector General Christi Grimm defended an April report which found, at the pandemic’s start, the healthcare system severely lacked personal protective equipment

“These shortages resulted in some downstream effects because they had to treat patients as though they were presumptive positive,” Grimm said.

Democrats, like New York Representative Carolyn Maloney, said part of the problem was a lack of federal guidance.

“Hospitals reported that quote, government intervention and coordination could help reconcile this problem,” Maloney said.

But Republicans, like Kentucky Representative James Comer, laid blame on China.

“Why did you not include the ongoing efforts by the administration to address the PPE shortages caused by China?” Comer asked.

“The report was really designed to be a quick snapshot of what was happening on the ground in hospitals,” Grimm responded.

When the report came out in April, President Donald Trump criticized its findings and has since moved to replace Grimm.

But she told lawmakers that isn’t affecting how she does her job.

“I personally and professionally cannot let the idea of providing unpopular information drive decision making,” Grimm said.

Grimm said the report was produced quickly, after surveying hundreds of hospitals, to get a sense of what was needed, not the underlying cause.

“The report provided quick and reliable data from the ground,” she said.

Grimm also told lawmakers discussions are underway to investigate how the federal government doled out emergency supplies from the national stockpile.

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