A new report says the US Department of Health and Human Services is at high risk of mismanaging any future crisis, according to the Washington Post. The report further, it adds, says the department consistently ignored recommendations to improve its pandemic response.
In its report, Government Accountability Office says that its concerns about the department pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic and include its responses to various crises since 2007, including to the H1N1 influenza, Ebola, and Zika outbreaks and to events like hurricanes. The GAO notes that it made 115 recommendations to HHS since 2007 to strengthen its response to public health emergencies, but that the department has only addressed a portion of them. One such item — a recommendation made in September 2020 that HHS work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop a plan to combat supply chain problems — has yet to be tackled, GAO says.
"As devastating as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, more frequent extreme weather events, new viruses, and bad actors who threaten to cause intentional harm loom, making the deficiencies we have identified particularly concerning," the GAO report adds. "Not being sufficiently prepared for a public health emergency can also negatively affect the time and resources needed to achieve full recovery."