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Sen. Schumer Calls On HHS Head Azar To Resign

Sen. Schumer Calls On HHS Head Azar To Resign

Source : Medtech Insight

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the head of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should resign, while accusing him of allowing President Trump to politicize the department’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on the Senate floor on 15 September, the Senate minority leader criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, and particularly the president’s actions during the pandemic. While the comments in and of themselves are not unusual, what is new is his call for HHS secretary Alex Azar to resign immediately.

“The secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, has not only failed to push back against these outrageous moves by President Trump, he's been almost entirely silent about the chaos and mismanagement in his own agency,” Schumer said. “In Trump’s administration the most important skill is the ability to stand up to the president and resist political influence; more in an agency like HHS than others, where the health of Americans is at stake."

.@SenSchumer: "Today, I am calling on Secretary Azar to resign immediately. We need a Secretary of Health and Human Services who will look out for the American people, not President Trump's political interests."Full video here: https://t.co/oqYBQl0ZJu pic.twitter.com/wx6bAuJtVH

Schumer’s comments come after a week where news reports have revealed how the Trump administration has tried to influence efforts by the HHS to fight COVID-19. In particular, HHS assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo has come under fire for trying to alter weekly data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on COVID-19 infections and deaths, arguing the numbers would politically harm the president. Caputo also accused the agency of harboring officials who intentionally want to hurt the president’s chances of reelection.

Reports say Caputo has since apologized to HHS staff for his comments and may resign shortly.

“It’s become abundantly clear that the leadership of HHS has allowed perhaps the most important agency right now to become subservient to the president's whims.” – Chuck Schumer

During his floor speech, Schumer highlighted the administration’s interference with HHS’ work to present accurate facts about the pandemic to the American public. He also accused the president of efforts to slow COVID-19 testing, overstating benefits of certain potential treatments such as hydroxychloroquine, and accusing Food and Drug Administration officials of holding back from allowing vaccines on the market, also to hurt him politically.

“It’s become abundantly clear that the leadership of HHS has allowed perhaps the most important agency right now to become subservient to the president's whims,” Schumer said. “So today I'm calling on secretary Azar to resign effective immediately. We need a secretary of health who will look out for the American people, not President Trump’s political interests.”

Schumer also criticized the White House’s response early in the pandemic for a shortage of medical ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers. He further said that despite the president’s decision to invoke the Defense Production Act to mobilize the US manufacturing sector to support the fight against COVID-19, Trump hasn’t fully used the DPA in the ongoing public health crisis. ("$2Bn Golden Egg 8 Manufacturers Will Share Billions To Make Ventilators For US Govt" "Medtech Insight" )

Azar has been in his post since January 2018 and has strong support from the medtech industry. ("New HHS Chief Alex Azar Supports LDT Regulation CostSaving Bundles" "Medtech Insight" )

In light of Schumer’s resignation demand, AdvaMed CEO Scott Whitaker – who has known Azar since their days working together at HHS – defended the secretary in comments to Medtech Insight.

“Our experience with secretary Azar has been very positive and collaborative,” he said. “He and his staff have always been focused on ensuring our companies are in the best position possible to quickly ramp up production of the PPE, ventilators and testing we need to beat COVID-19.”

By Ferdous Al-Faruque