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Key federal health agency in US failing to deal with crises: watchdog

A federal watchdog stated on Thursday that the US government’s major health agency is failing to fulfil its responsibility for directing the national response to public health emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic, extreme weather disasters, and even potential bioterrorist strikes.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has designated the leadership and coordination of public health emergencies by the Health and Human Services Department as a “high risk” issue for the government. While there are no immediate consequences to this designation, it does communicate to Congress that the agency’s activities require special attention.

The GAO claimed in its report that long-standing “chronic weaknesses” at HHS “have hampered the nation’s response to the present COVID-19 outbreak and a range of earlier threats.” “If left unchecked, these flaws will continue to obstruct the nation’s capacity to plan for and respond effectively to future crises.”

According to the GAO, the shortcomings include managing the medical supply chain, working with federal and state agencies, and communicating clearly and consistently with the public and the health-care community.

The study is part of the Government Accountability Office’s assessment of the government’s pandemic response. Senators from both parties submitted draft legislation this week calling for a thorough investigation of the pandemic and a revamp of HHS’ capabilities.

Closer congressional monitoring of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an HHS department, is one of the lawmakers’ top concerns, as is expanding the supply chain and enhancing coordination at the highest levels of HHS. Some of them are in response to the GAO report’s concerns.


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