Former guide dog to support hospital staff and patients in Australian first program

The Launceston General Hospital Emergency Department have announced the appointment of the hospital's newest consultant, Gilbert the facility dog.

The appointment of the four-year-old black Labrador was the first time a facility dog has been used in an emergency department anywhere in Australia.

Recruiting the former guide dog to support the hospital was the brainchild of his new handler LGH ED Director Lucy Reed.


Ms Reed said she couldn't recall the exact moment the idea came to her but after a difficult period, exacerbated by COVID-19, she knew the department needed something to boost morale.

DR DOG: Launceston General Hospital Director of Emergency Department Lucy Reed and Gilbert the Facility Dog. Picture: Craig George

DR DOG: Launceston General Hospital Director of Emergency Department Lucy Reed and Gilbert the Facility Dog. Picture: Craig George

She said support dogs had visited the hospital in the past and found they always had a positive impact on patients and staff.

"We had a dog called Gracie you came in just once a week and she lifted the department every time she arrived," she said.

She said Gilbert's role at the LGH marked a new beginning for the former Guide dog after his own health issues forced him to retire prematurely.

"He has bad back legs. He's a very big dog and his kneecaps dislocate, we manage that well but he couldn't be a guide dog any longer," she said.

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Ms Reed said although the work was different, Gilbert has taken to his new role like a true professional and can't wait to hit the ward each morning for his daily rounds.

She said Gilbert had an immediate impact on the ED and was adored by patients and staff alike.

"So, the patients are universally excited to see him, I haven't seen one patient yet who didn't want to say hello," she said.

"He can make anybody smile from children to the very elderly to the confused to the traumatized."

She said for staff working in the high stress department, a short visit from Gilbert was invaluable.

"We go out onto the floor and we say hello to whoever needs us to say hello to them, nurses frequently, paramedics, patients often staff," she said.

'To be honest the staff really gathered a lot of relaxation and just de-stressing from him."

Ms Reed said while Gilbert took to his new role with ease staff were trained to ensure Gilbert didn't give them the runaround.

We all got trained up as dog handlers by guide dogs and what that involves," she said.

Simply walking with the dog controlled on the left hand side and how to stop, and how to sort of get him to not eat all the food around the department."

Ms Reed said the plan was to have Gilbert working in the department for the foreseeable future, which she expects will be for quite some time to come.

This story Meet Gilbert, the country's first certified dogtor first appeared on The Examiner.