Hyperbaric Technologies, Inc.

B-293047.4: Mar 29, 2004

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Hyperbaric Technologies, Inc. (HTI) protests the award of a contract to PCCI, Inc. under request for proposals (RFP) No. 797-FDF3-03-0002, issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to upgrade and modernize multiplace hyperbaric chambers, related equipment and systems located at the Hyperbaric Medicine Division, United States Air Force (USAF) School of Aerospace Medicine, Brooks City-Base in Texas. HTI challenges the agency's evaluation and source selection decision.

We deny the protest.

B-293047.4, Hyperbaric Technologies, Inc., March 29, 2004




DOCUMENT FOR PUBLIC RELEASE
The decision issued on the date below was subject to a GAO Protective Order. This redacted version has been approved for public release.
Decision

Matter of:

File:

Date:















DECISION


We deny the protest.

The Hyperbaric Medicine Division at Brooks City-Base is a medical treatment facility which has two cylindrical multiplace hyperbaric chambers that can accommodate two or more patients, medical personnel, patient attendants and/or a chamber operator. The hyperbaric chambers are pressurized and are used to treat patient wounds or infections by administering oxygen (or other gases) directly into the patient's body to aid in healing. Hearing Transcript (Tr.) at 12-16, 233-34.[1]

The RFP was issued on June 20, 2003 as a commercial item acquisition and, as amended, contemplated the award of a fixed-price contract on a –best value— basis for the successful contractor to upgrade the main hyperbaric chamber (Chamber 1) and to remove, design and replace the smaller –Panama— hyperbaric chamber
(Chamber 2). The statement of work (SOW) described the –minimum requirements— needed to upgrade and modernize both chambers, the associated equipment and support systems. RFP amend. 1, Questions and Answers (Q&A) No. 40
(July 15, 2003).[2] These upgrades include improvements to the fire suppression systems, and the chamber control systems for both hyperbaric chambers, and the installation and integration of a new state-of-the-art central control console system. RFP amend. 1, at 7. The solicitation further required that this central control console system should be a 21st century automated system with touch screen control capability and user-friendly operating system that can operate both multiplace chambers simultaneously. Id. at 8.

In response to a question posed by a potential offeror, the VA also addressed the central control console touch screen capability requirements. The Q&A was as follows:

Q: Your replies to our questions concerning an automated system were satisfactory, however, in paragraph 1.5.1 there has been added a requirement for a touch screen control for the automated system. HTI's automated FDA [United States Food and Drug Administration] approved control system is operated by touching buttons versus touching a touch screen. In both cases automation is achieved by touching one button. Given our FDA automated hyperbaric control system approval, will our system be satisfacory?
A: [USAF] wants touch screen capability. However, we will evaluate all proposals and select the best one that meets our requirements.
RFP amend. 2, Q&A No. 1 (July 28, 2003). As to Chamber 2, offerors were required to design the replacement multiplace chamber with the best possible space utilization that provided a minimum of 2-gurney, or 6-ambulatory, or 4-wheelchair patient capability and with chamber door openings designed for easy gurney and wheelchair access. RFP amend. 1, at 8. The RFP also included special requirements for Chamber 2 which, among other things, identified various codes, regulations, and standards with which offerors were to comply. RFP amend. 2, at 4. One of these special requirements was as follows:

All applicable systems and installations must meet or exceed
the most current National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) Chapter 20 [codes] for Hyperbaric Facilities, and ASME [American Society of Mechanical Engineers] guidelines on Pressure Vessels for Human Occupancy (PVHO) at the time of final inspection.
Id.

The RFP provided for the evaluation of proposals on the basis of the following factors and subfactors:

1. Technical Capability
a. Suitability of overall upgrades/new chamber
b. Proposal demonstrates understanding of requirements
c. Overall quality and technical specifications
2. Past Performance
a. Experience
b. Reported customer satisfaction/testimonials
3. Price

RFP amend. 1, at 18. The solicitation advised that the technical capability and past performance factors, when combined, were significantly more important than price. Offerors were required to submit technical proposals which addressed how they would meet the project's objectives and contained sufficient technical data and performance specifications to support their proposed hyperbaric design solution, including their proposed equipment and components. RFP amend. 1, at 19-20. The solicitation also advised that offerors whose offered equipment or components exceeded the solicitation requirements would –be evaluated based upon any added benefit— to the government. Id. at 19.

The agency received proposals from [DELETED] offerors, including HTI and PCCI, by the August 1, 2003 extended closing date. A four-member technical evaluation panel (TEP) from Brooks City-Base performed an initial evaluation of technical proposals using a qualitative rating system set forth in the source selection plan. Under each nonprice factor and subfactor, the evaluators assigned an excellent rating using a weighted variable of 1.0 to PCCI's proposal and assigned a very good rating with a weighted variable of 0.8 to HTI's proposal.[3] Based on the results of the initial evaluation of proposals, the agency concluded that all [DELETED] proposals should be included in the competitive range.[4] Agency Report (AR) exh. D, Price Negotiation Memorandum, at 6 (Sept. 19, 2003). The agency requested and received proposal revisions. The final evaluation results were as follows:


Evaluation Factors

HTI

PCCI

1. Technical Capability (65 points)




Suitability (30 points)

[DELETED]

[DELETED]

Understanding (25 points)

[DELETED]

[DELETED]

Quality (10 points)

[DELETED]

[DELETED]

2. Past Performance (15 points)




Experience (10 points)

[DELETED]

[DELETED]

Customer Satisfaction/
Testimonials (5 points)


[DELETED]


[DELETED]

Total Score (80 maximum points)

[DELETED]

[DELETED]

Total Price

[DELETED]

$1,387,452


Id.








Space utilization of a square chamber is clearly an advantage, since it eliminates most of the dead space found in cylindrical type chambers.
Infection control and cleaning are improved, since the design eliminates floor plates, thereby preventing bacterial growth under floor plates.
[DELETED]
PCCI's design reduces patient apprehension and claustrophobia, because the interior and exterior design has a natural room environmental quality compared to cylindrical chambers. Proposals from HTI [DELETED] include cylindrical type chambers.
b.










[5]

Id.





[6] Id.

Rome Research Corp.
Lear Siegler Servs., Inc. Rome Research Corp. supra

see e.g.

e.g.

[7]

[8]



Southwest Marine, Inc.; American Sys. Eng'g Corp. National Toxicology Labs., Inc.









[1] Cites to the hearing transcript refer to the transcript of the hearing that our Office conducted in connection with this protest.
[2] The July 15 Q&A included the following exchange:

Q: Request add FAR [Federal Acquisition Regulation] clauses that invoke the Buy American Act. Give[n] the military nature of this solicitation and small industry (only [DELETED] bidders in the first solicitation) it is strongly requested to remain a USA procurement.
A: The Buy American Act will not be added to this solicitation. This is a full and open requirement giving all vendors/companies the opportunity to propose.
RFP amend. 1, Q&A No. 39 (July 15, 2003).
[3] As applicable here, the qualitative ratings used by the evaluators were defined as:
Excellent (1.0): Proposal demonstrates a superior understanding of requirement; response provides innovative, alternate approaches to performing the work, including thorough identification of potential problem areas and their solutions; procedures are effective and comprehensive and demonstrate quality control; proposed personnel are fully qualified; past experiences on similar projects were fully successful; virtually assures success of work.
Very Good (0.8): Proposal demonstrates a clear understanding of the requirement; response is complete and identifies some potential problems and solutions; procedures are sound and include quality control; proposed personnel are highly qualified; capable of successfully performing the work.
AR exh. D, Source Selection Plan, at 6.
[4] [DELETED]
[5] Under the amended evaluation scheme, price became the second most important factor but the technical capability and past performance factors, when combined, still were significantly more important than price. RFP amend. 3, at 2.
[6] Although we do not here specifically address all of HTI's complaints about the evaluation of proposals, we have considered them all and find none of them has merit. This decision will address only the more significant arguments.
[7] In this regard, HTI asserts that prior to establishing the competitive range, the contracting officer sought clarifications from PCCI regarding its proposal and argues that this communication constituted prejudicial discussions since HTI was not afforded the opportunity to address the agency's concern regarding the touch-button capability of its FDA-approved automation system. We will not consider this allegation because it was raised more than 10 days after the protester received the documents upon which it bases this protest ground and is therefore untimely. Bid Protest Regulations, 4 C.F.R. 21.2(a)(2) (2003). However, we note that the agency did not have a concern regarding the acceptability of HTI's proposed touch-button approach that would require clarification or discussions. See Tr. at 297-98, 311-14, 459-60.
[8] It appears that the protester is concerned that the awardee is subcontracting a significant portion of the contract work to foreign companies. As noted previously, this solicitation did not restrict the competition to domestic firms. RFP amend. 1, Q&A No. 39 (July 15, 2003).

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