A decision to overhaul the leadership of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center after an outside review group found serious patient safety problems has sparked an uproar at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. In a recent letter, department chiefs at the center wrote that the review, triggered by problems with a drug production facility, unfairly concluded that patient safety has been compromised across the research hospital. They say the working group’s report has demoralized staff, worried patients, and “demonized” the center’s leadership.
Patient advocates and clinical research leaders across NIH have also written letters taking issue with the review. NIH Director Francis Collins yesterday responded to one of the letters, from Clinical Center department heads. In a statement, Collins said he is “taking the comments … very seriously. They are highly dedicated senior leaders, and I have great respect for all of them.” At the same time, he “stand[s] by” the outside working group’s process and expertise and agrees that the center needs “more central authority and accountability.” Collins was expected to meet with clinical leaders today to discuss their concerns.