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Hospital repair professionals: Just let us fix life-saving devices like ventilators

326 Technicians call for manufacturers to end proprietary restrictions to repair, are joined by PennPIRG, State Treasurer Joe Torsella, and Representative Davis (McKeesport)
For Immediate Release

PHILADELPHIA -- PennPIRG delivered a letter to state legislators and the governor Monday, signed by 326 hospital repair experts, calling for manufacturers to stop withholding what technicians need to fix medical equipment like ventilators. It’s part of PennPIRG’s larger Right to Repair Campaign, which aims to remove unnecessary barriers to repair that drive up costs for product owners and increase electronic waste. PennPIRG worked with Representative Austin Davis to introduce the Digital Fair Repair Act last month. 

“Keeping equipment working under the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic is a matter of life and death,” said PennPIRG Campaign Associate Emma Horst-Martz. “This is no time to squeeze hospitals into paying extra for proprietary repairs.” 

Echoing the technicians’ comments, a group of state treasurers, including Joe Torsella, sent a similar letter to manufacturers calling for them to “release all service manuals, service keys, and schematics during this crisis,” for ventilators. 

“If we can aid our frontline medical personnel, and help expedite keeping devices like ventilators working, we should do so,” said Representative Austin Davis. “Our hospitals are working really hard, and deserve that support.” 

COVID-19 is putting incredible stress on our medical system, including the work of hospital biomedical repair technicians, known as biomeds or BMETs. But in some cases, manufacturers restrict access to what biomeds need. For example, as ventilators are pressed into around-the-clock use, repair and maintenance issues increase. While some ventilator manufacturers provide service information, other manufacturers make it hard to access manuals, read error logs or run diagnostic tests.

“While some manufacturers work cooperatively with biomeds, many continue to make it difficult to access the information needed to effectively maintain critical equipment on site,” said Barbara Maguire, ISS Solutions Vice President of Quality and Geisinger Healthcare Technology Management. “Having the option to perform maintenance on-site reduces downtime and saves hospitals money.”

"This is very important to patient safety and the delivery of quality care. Access to literature, tools, and training of the equipment owners is paramount to safe future use." Ken O., an experienced biomedical engineer commented on the letter. 

Manufacturers claim that these restrictions are in place to ensure safety. But in 2018, FDA found third-party repair carries no additional risk and that both they and manufacturers “provide high quality, safe, and effective servicing of medical devices.” Instead of restricting third-party repair, the FDA says “the continued availability of third party entities to service and repair medical devices is critical to the functioning of the U.S. healthcare system.” 

“Restrictions on repair aren’t about safety, as the FDA report shows -- everyone who is doing repairs is doing it carefully and safely. These restrictions are about control and about money,” said Horst-Martz.

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