Hospitals Need to Be Able to Repair Their Own Medical Equipment

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A COVID-19 patient on a ventilator in Santiago, Chile, on June 18
Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images

Nearly eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic, American hospitals and our health care workers are under incredible stress. In Utah, almost three-quarters of ICU beds were full on Oct. 8. As the crisis continues, concerns about the maintenance of critical medical equipment, including X-ray machines, dialysis machines, and ventilators, are growing.

Even before the pandemic, hospitals faced a shortage of licensed repair technicians. But pandemic-induced patient loads are exacerbating that problem. Many of these devices are in heavy use, increasing the frequency of required maintenance and causing a spike in demand for repairs. Yet, because of the novel coronavirus, many manufacturers are restricting travel for their repair technicians.

Rural hospitals, which are stretched thin in the best of circumstances, face some of the biggest challenges. A medical system in Colorado and Kansas reported that one of the few authorized repair technicians in its state was sidelined for weeks after being exposed to COVID-19.

The result: Too many hospitals face long waits for authorized technicians to repair life-saving machines. In a survey published in July by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, almost one-third of biomedical repair …

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