As COVID Surges, OEMs Sideline Lifesaving Devices with Repair Restrictions

Amid the Covid pandemic, the right to repair has proven to be essential now more than ever and in some cases, it means life or death. U.S. PIRG and nationwide state affiliates delivered letters to Congress and state legislators demanding the right to repair for medical equipment and technology. 

A survey by PIRG of hundreds of biomedical technicians – or “biomeds” – who maintain and repair medical devices in hospitals and other clinical settings reveals an alarming shortage of critical information including service and repair manuals needed to keep devices like ventilators in working order.

This week, U.S. PIRG delivered a letter signed by 326 biomedical professionals (clinical engineers, biomedical technicians and health technology managers) to members of Congress, calling on medical device manufacturers to stop withholding what technicians need to fix medical equipment such as ventilators.

PIRG’s state affiliates across the country delivered the letter to their state lawmakers. The latest efforts are part of U.S. PIRG’s larger Right to Repair Campaign, which aims to remove unnecessary barriers to repair that drive up costs for product owners, increase electronic waste. 

Restrictions created by manufacturers have made it nearly impossible for hospitals to repair essential life saving devices such as ventilators. These barriers include inflated costs, restricted access to repair manuals, and even requirements for “refresher training” on devices that are used on a daily basis, according to an anonymous biomedical professional who spoke with U.S. PIRG.  Biomedical technicians, deprived of information from OEM, commonly resort to online forums and websites where diagnostic, servicing and repair information is shared.

In efforts to ease the stress of being unable to readily access repair manuals, iFixit created a database of “13,000 manuals for products from hundreds of manufacturers” for hospital workers to refer to at the click of a button. 

The goal is for all medical device manufactures to allow access to their repair information during this time of increased urgency in order to save lives.