Trump slams U.S. watchdog’s report on shortages at coronavirus-hit hospitals

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused the U.S. Health Department’s inspector general of having produced a “fake dossier” on American hospitals suffering shortages on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 6, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The president, taking aim at yet another federal agency watchdog, did not provide any reason for questioning the health department inspector general’s report on critical shortages.

The findings confirmed what governors, mayors and local health officials have been saying for weeks: that hospitals nationwide had insufficient capacity to handle the surge of coronavirus patients.

But Trump suggested the inspector general was politically motivated and asked why she had not spoken to admirals, generals, the vice president or others in charge before doing the report.

“Another Fake Dossier,” he wrote on Twitter.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of the Inspector General is led by Christi Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general, who has served in the office since 1999.

The office did not return a request for comment on Trump’s tweet.

Trump’s criticism came less than a week after he notified Congress on Friday he was firing the inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community, who was involved in triggering an impeachment probe of the Republican president last year.

Michael Atkinson, the top U.S. Intelligence Community watchdog, said on Sunday he was fired by Trump for acting impartially in his handling of the whistleblower complaint that triggered an impeachment probe of the president last year.

Trump derided the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry as a politically motivated witch hunt.

With the November election approaching as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the U.S. economy, Trump has bristled at perceived criticism of his handling of the response to the virus.

In the U.S. government’s first review of hospitals’ ability to cope with the coronavirus outbreak, investigators found on Monday that facilities nationwide faced “substantial challenges,” including medical equipment shortages and staffing .

Hospitals reported major challenges in testing and treating patients, and in having sufficient capacity to handle the surge in needed care, the HHS inspector general said in the report, based on 323 hospitals surveyed between March 23-27.

Hospitals reported that widespread shortages personal protective equipment put staff and patients at risk, HHS inspectors said.

Trump first expressed irritation over the report during Monday night’s coronavirus briefing, asking who the HHS inspector general was.

“Where did he come from, the inspector general?” Trump snapped. “What’s his name?”

Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown

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