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Claudia Deeg,
CALPIRG

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

Over 300 Technicians call for manufacturers to end proprietary restrictions to repair, are joined by CALPIRG and iFixit
For Immediate Release

SACRAMENTO -- Today, CALPIRG delivered a letter to legislators and the governor, 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 CALPIRG’s larger “Right to Repair” campaign, which aims to remove unnecessary barriers to repair which drive up costs for product owners and increase electronic waste. 

“Keeping equipment working under the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic is a matter of life and death,” said Emily Rusch, CALPIRG Executive Director. “This is no time to try and squeeze hospitals into paying extra for proprietary repairs.” 

“If we can aid our frontline medical personnel, and help expedite keeping devices like ventilators working, we should do so,” said Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit. “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.

“We believe that every organization that purchases medical equipment or services them, should have the right to get trained and be able to procure parts to repair the equipment they own,” said Ilir Kullolli, President of the American College of Clinical Engineering. “This will make healthcare delivery better, faster, and safer – especially during a pandemic or a national emergency!”

"Our number one priority is safety for our patients and staff," said Paul Kelley, Director of Biomedical Engineering and the Green Initiative at Washington Hospital Healthcare System. "Being able to provide on-site, timely service is key to that goal. When we can keep a device running and repaired quickly, the manufacturer looks good too. It is a win for everyone."

 

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.” 

“Manufacturers frequently refuse to provide needed service documentation and tools for repairing medical equipment purchased.  Not only for life support ventilators, but other critical devices. This is a continual trend, and has gotten worse.  It’s time for manufacturers to cooperate with the Healthcare Technology Management community in the interest of patient care and safety.  Having on-site repair systems reduces downtime, saves money and lives.” Jonathan Lee, HEM, Senior Consultant at HTM Consulting Network.

“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 Rusch. 

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