March 06, 2020

Cortez Masto Demands Transparency from HHS on Internal Indian Health Service Patient Abuse and Management Response Report

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) – along with fellow Indian Affairs Committee members Vice Chairman Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) – requested that Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar provide the Committee with an unredacted copy of the internal audit report on the Indian Health Service (IHS) management response to former IHS pediatrician Stanley Patrick Weber’s patient abuse compiled by Integritas Creative Solutions, LLC, within seven business days.

“The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and IHS leadership have committed repeatedly to full transparency, openness, and accountability regarding all issues related to IHS patients abuse generally and Weber’s abuse of minor IHS patients specifically,” the senators wrote. “However, recent decisions made by HHS regarding the disclosure of the referenced Integritas report appear to contradict those commitments.”

Following revelations of longstanding abuse of child patients by former IHS pediatrician Stanley Patrick Weber, as well as IHS' negligent management response to Weber’s abuse, HHS commissioned an internal audit report from Integritas Creative Solutions, LLC. Thus far, HHS has not released the report publicly and has limited congressional access to a redacted report.

“There is no legal basis for the IHS to withhold or limit access to its unredacted findings from review by the congressional committee of jurisdiction,” the senators continued. “As a coequal branch of government, we expect full transparency from your Department and the agency regarding this report and on all instances of patient abuse. HHS and IHS must uphold their commitment to transparency on the Weber incident and issues of patient abuse.”

Full text of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Secretary Azar,

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, as the Committee of jurisdiction charged with oversight of the Indian Health Service (IHS), requests you provide an unredacted copy of the internal audit report on the IHS management response to former IHS pediatrician Stanley Patrick Weber’s patient abuse compiled by Integritas Creative Solutions, LLC, within seven business days.  

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and IHS leadership have committed repeatedly to full transparency, openness, and accountability regarding all issues related to IHS patients abuse generally and Weber’s abuse of minor IHS patients specifically. However, recent decisions made by HHS regarding the disclosure of the referenced Integritas report appear to contradict those commitments.

The Committee requested you provide a full unredacted copy of the report on February 21, 2020. Three days later, citing the sensitive nature of the report, HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislation Traci Vitek informed both Majority and Minority Committee staffs that the Department would only make the report available for in-camera inspection at your agency offices, “with limited redactions (personal identifiers and attorney/client privilege information),” for a set amount of time on the condition that such review be “read only” and that no notes be taken.

There is no legal basis for the IHS to withhold or limit access to its unredacted findings from review by the congressional committee of jurisdiction. As a coequal branch of government, we expect full transparency from your Department and the agency regarding this report and on all instances of patient abuse. HHS and IHS must uphold their commitment to transparency on the Weber incident and issues of patient abuse.