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.

The president, taking aim at yet another federal agency watchdog, did not provide any reason for questioning the 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 Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is led by Christi Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general, who has served in the office since 1999.

An HHS OIG spokeswoman said the office “approached this survey with the same integrity and quality standards as we have in previous work” and said staff had interviewed “knowledgeable professionals at more than 320 hospitals across 46 states.”

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 inquiry, which culminated in his impeachment in December 2019, as a politically motivated witch-hunt.

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

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 of 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; additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Chizu Nomiyamaa, Tom Brown and Sonya Hepinstall