Each week that Republican politicians refuse to end the shutdown of the federal government results in 200 cancer patients being unable to enroll in treatment programs at the National Institutes of Health, 30 of them children. According to the Atlantic, the number came from a Wall Street Journal article with an interview with NIH director Francis Collins.
“At the National Institutes of Health,” said the Journal, “nearly three-quarters of the staff was furloughed. One result: director Francis Collins said about 200 patients who otherwise would be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center into clinical trials each week will be turned away. This includes about 30 children, most of them cancer patients, he said.”
Brad Plumer at the Washington Post reported that the NIH Clinical Center is often the last hope of very ill patients.
A contingency planning document for 2014 from the Department of Health and Human Services characterized the NIH clinic as a place where patients go “only when standard medical treatments have failed, and other treatment options are not available. As a result, they have no other alternatives.”
In a normal year, the clinic typically provides services to 100,000 new patients. During the shutdown, 2,564 staffers will be retained to manage the existing roster of cases. The clinic will be unable, however, to take on any new patients for as long as the shutdown continues.
Greg Sargent of the Post‘s Plum Line blog pointed out that Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) could step off the shutdown bandwagon at any time, however, by allowing a “clean” Continuing Resolution for funding the government to come to the floor for a debate. A “clean CR” would be a plan to fund the government without the current stipulations about defunding and repealing Obamacare.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) told Sargent he was trying to round up enough votes to pass such a measure.
“There are a very large number of House Republicans who privately support a clean CR, but fewer who are willing to vote for it,” said Dent. “I believe most House Republican members would be okay with John Boehner if he were to decide to allow a vote.”
So far, Boehner has given no indication that he intends to do so.
[image of baby with chemotherapy hair loss and nasogastric tube via Shutterstock.com]