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Ventilator companies are opening up critical repair documents to the public

After being called out by the US Public Interest Research Group.
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ICU anaesthesia ventilator workstation in the emergency room in stand by mode.
DrDjJanek via Getty Images

After being called out by the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), more ventilator manufacturers are sharing critical repair information. Last month, the PIRG asked device manufacturers to release all repair documentation for essential medical equipment being used to diagnose and treat COVID-19. Since then, GE, Fisher & Paykal and Medtronic have expanded support, which should make maintaining life-saving gear easier during this period of strain.

The PIRG says it delivered 43,000 petitions calling for the release of ventilator repair information, and iFixit partnered with the PIRG to catalog ventilator service manuals. While manufactures didn’t say whether they modified their policies in response to those petitions, they have made changes. GE is sharing technical reference manuals and service applications without requiring the usual four-day in-person training. Fisher & Paykal are responding to PDF requests, and other companies, like Medtronic, are sharing similar documents in new web portals.

“I want to thank ventilator manufacturers such as GE for providing access to service documents,” Nathan Proctor, head of the right to repair campaign at the PIRG, said in a statement. “When technicians can’t access service manuals, it puts unnecessary barriers to fixing life-saving equipment.”

While the need for medical equipment technical manuals is pressing given the pandemic, it fits into a larger conversation. For years, right to repair proponents have argued that tech companies have prevented owners and independent technicians from completing basic fixes. Companies like Apple argue the repairs are too complex or not safe, though that’s debatable. Europe is already pushing for broader right to repair legislation, and the current demand for medical device service could make the battle more prominent in the US, too.

“We hope this also serves as an example about why restricting repair is harmful,” Proctor said. “It’s time we removed these repair restrictions for all the equipment in hospitals. We hope that manufacturers continue to expand their cooperation with independent technicians and hospital in-house biomeds to provide what they need to fix equipment.”

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