GAO: HHS unprepared for the next pandemic
The Government Accountability Office recently issued a report on whether the Department of Health and Human Services would be able to handle a new pandemic or other global health threat.
The answer? No way:
Investigators “found persistent deficiencies” in how the agency has led the response to the coronavirus pandemic and past public health emergencies dating to 2007, the Government Accountability Office concluded, citing continued problems coordinating among public health agencies, collecting infectious-disease surveillance data and securing appropriate testing and medical supplies, among areas it said are unresolved.
“The department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted long-standing concerns we have raised about its ability to execute its role leading federal public health and medical preparedness for, and response to, such public health emergencies,” the GAO wrote in its report, which was shared with nine congressional committees.
That’s nice. And yes, the HHS has been failing at one of its major functions for a very long time:
The GAO’s concerns about HHS span four presidential administrations and an array of public health emergencies, ranging from infectious-disease outbreaks such as Ebola and Zika to extreme weather events such as hurricanes. The watchdog said that it has made 115 recommendations to HHS about its leadership and coordination of public health emergencies since fiscal 2007 but that only 33 have been implemented.
The coronavirus pandemic exposed how well-funded bureaucracies like HHS, the FDA, and the CDC are almost pathologically resistance to change, never mind the need to move quickly when circumstances demand it.
In a perfect world, there would be a reckoning for these failures. Today? The folks in charge will probably get Presidential Medals of Freedom.