When Trudi the robot is plugged in and armed, it sounds more like a space shuttle launch system than a germ-killing machine.
"Disinfecting will commence in 15 seconds; please leave the room," Trudi — as staff at Vancouver General Hospital have named it — calls out in a digital monotone from inside a treatment room.
"Disinfecting process started," it continues, as its thin, vertical bulbs blast out powerful ultraviolet rays, killing germs and viruses that might be lurking nearby.
The hospital is the first facility in Canada to use Trudi — whose formal name is Tru-D SmartUVC — as health officials across the country look for ways to protect vulnerable patients from catching potentially deadly bugs such as norovirus and C. difficile.
Health officials in British Columbia have started a pilot project that will see Tru-D and a similar device each tested for five months to determine whether the technology should be used permanently in health-care facilities across the province.
"We've been very impressed with the almost complete eradication of organisms, even when we take it to high concentrations," Dr. Elizabeth Bryce, the medical director for infection control at Vancouver Coastal Health, said after a demonstration of the device on Friday.
"We hope it will decrease the rates of hospital-acquired organisms like superbugs."
The Tru-D device is 1.65 metres tall with long bulbs running vertically up a round, clear shaft — think R2-D2 from "Star Wars" instead of Rosie from "The Jetsons." It can't move on its own and must be manually wheeled from room to room.
A large sensor on the top of the device measures reflections from the UV light to determine the size of the room and how much exposure will be required to disinfect it. The process can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.
It must be used in an empty room that has already been cleaned by hospital staff, said Bryce, providing an extra layer of disinfection rather than replacing existing cleaning.