Saskatchewan Entrepreneurs Set Out to Smash Secondary Infection Rates With Brilliant and Simple Invention

  • Apr 01st, 2016
  • Cathy Edwards

In the national health system there is a silent assailant, largely unknown to the majority of Canadians. It affects one out of every nine hospital patients, is the fourth leading cause of death, is estimated to cost our healthcare system 1 billion dollars every year, and has, as of yet, only been addressed with lukewarm success. This scourge is secondary infections, also known as healthcare-associated infections, or HAIs.

According to a 2011 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, Canada has one of the highest rates of HAIs in the developed world. Two local entrepreneurs, former petroleum engineer Angela Jamieson and former lawyer/accountant Cathy Edwards, recognised the situation as desperately needing to be addressed in a meaningful way, and thus, their company, Row 5 Distributors, was founded.  

Current efforts to prevent HAIs are largely based in simple, common sense procedures, such as hand washing for healthcare staff and rigorous cleaning and disinfection of hospital rooms. These efforts are all compliance based and often, due to time and personnel constraints, fall short of recommended guidelines. If we are washing our hands and surfaces, why not wipe the air which often holds the pathogens that eventually settles on surfaces? The air has been largely unaddressed in healthcare settings.

It became obvious that there needed to be an unobtrusive, effective, and fool-proof way to reduce infection at the source, and thus the VidaShield was born. The VidaShield, manufactured by American Green Technology, is a shielded UV-C system attached to the back of a lighting troffer. Air is pulled up through the unit, passes through a coarse pre-filter (MERV6) to catch and collect large airborne particles, and heads towards a UV-C chamber to break down the DNA of pathogens passing through the filter. Purified air is then pushed back into the room. The UV-C rays are completely shielded allowing constant air cleaning in occupied spaces.

Initial tests of the technology have been extremely positive. In one six-month test, an L-shaped ward with one arm equipped with the technology and one without showed a difference of 37% in the rates of secondary infections acquired by patients. In a second test in an intensive care unit, the total rate of infection went down 53% as well as reducing absenteeism among staff (which contributes to approximately $13bn yearly cost of sick leave in Canada), saving money as well as lives. Most interesting was ALL infections were reduced, including those typically considered touch-transfer only (CAUTIs and CLABSIs) and resistant organisms like c-difficile; an organism that often plagues hospitals and long term care facilities.

While the product is still in its infancy, the UV-C technology has been used for over 80 years. Cooperative research projects have given great results to all who have tried it. The founders of Row 5, Angela and Cathy, state that they are always willing to collaborate with others to work toward the vision that the VidaShield should be a standard fixture in healthcare and would be a great addition to any space where the public gathers. For example, daycares, nursing homes, schools, pro-sports dressing rooms, etc. Research collaborators and early adopters are welcomed.

More information about the VidaShield can be found online at, or by email at


Cathy Edwards

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