DENVER — For years, manufacturers of ventilators and other medical equipment have kept a tight grip on the ability of hospitals to service and repair those products, prompting lawsuits and under-the-table sharing of repair manuals and software passwords.
Now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for product information to keep ventilators up and running is at an all-time high.
Modern ventilators are typically serviced either every six months or 2,000 hours of use and can last for 10 years if maintained properly. But now nearly every ventilator is being called into near-constant service in hot spots, with some pulled out of storage after eight years on the shelf. When any ventilator breaks down amid the surge of cases, waiting two weeks for a repair can mean patients die.
While some manufacturers have made limited concessions to help hospitals and third-party service providers maintain equipment during the crisis,