Whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright, who worked for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and, more recently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has resigned, according to an October 6 New York Times article.
In the third addendum to his original whistleblower complaint, Dr. Bright’s lawyers detail the alleged retaliation he went through at HHS after being an “outspoken critic of the Administration’s response to the pandemic.” Dr. Bright, who had worked as the Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), was reassigned to work at NIH in a “limited position,” according to the addendum. Dr. Bright was charged with leading the RADx-Advanced Technology Platforms project at NIH, which Dr. Bright’s lawyers claim was a “significant demotion.”
In his new position at NIH, Dr. Bright completed his assignment and then “made a series of recommendations to fix the Administration’s ineffective approach for COVID-19 testing by devising a plan to better identify those infected with the virus.” He made recommendations for a “robust national testing infrastructure…based on best practices for pandemic response and provided a commonsense approach to better manage the pandemic by breaking the chains of transmission and reducing community transmission,” according to the addendum. However, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins allegedly “declined to support Dr. Bright’s recommendations because of political considerations,” and told Dr. Bright that “he feared the Trump administration would not approve a plan that called for broad-based testing of asymptomatic people.” Dr. Collins also allegedly told Dr. Bright his concerns that approving the testing plan might “step of the toes of other teams within HHS.”
Dr. Bright’s lawyers write that he “has been assigned no meaningful work since September 4…and has been idle for weeks,” allegedly to the knowledge of his supervisors. On September 25, Dr. Bright wrote to one of his supervisors about his work at NIH: “For now, I am not being fully utilized for the breadth of my experience as the pandemic rages and Americans die. In short, I long to serve the American people by using my skills to fight this pandemic. The taxpayers who pay my salary deserve no less.” He wrote that he wanted to “join the technical working groups and leadership calls for the various vaccine and therapeutic development programs for the pandemic response.” However, according to the addendum, one supervisor never responded, and another responded but never followed up.
Dr. Bright submitted his “involuntary resignation” on October 6. “Because this resignation is involuntary, Dr. Bright has been constructively discharged by HHS,” the addendum concludes.
Dr. Bright’s lawyers state that he “remains very concerns about the lack of leadership at HHS and the failure of this Administration to articulate a coordinated national plan to address the pandemic with respect to diagnostics.”