For every week the government shutdown continues, an estimated 200 people – 30 of them children – will be denied treatment in cutting-edge research studies at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) renowned hospital and will have to find treatment elsewhere, the agency announced.
The NIH Clinical Center is a sought-after research-only hospital where many critically ill patients come for experimental treatments when all other options have failed, says NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins. “It’s heartbreaking.”
The only exception the agency would make is for a child with a life-threatening illness. Patients currently receiving treatment at the hospital will also continue to receive care.
Many of the patients who would seek out care at the NIH Clinical Center could quality for research studies at other hospitals, the agency said. But the treatment would not be the same.
Other NIH research projects outside the hospital, such as tests on new flu vaccines or autism research, will be suspended. Scientists who conduct these experiments will be released from their work.
Budget cuts throughout the years have taken a toll on NIH grant funding. The institute was only able to fund about 16 percent of the grant applications it received this year, down from more than 30 percent a decade ago.
“If you expected new treatments for cancer or a new universal influenza vaccine or discovering the causes of autism were going to move forward at the maximum it could, that will not be the case,” Collins told the Associated Press. “This is a profoundly discouraging day.”