More Paramedic Support Dogs Lending A Helping Paw

The Andrews Labor Government is helping improve the welfare of paramedics with the latest Ambulance Victoria Peer Support Dog Program canine recruits stepping out ahead of their first day on the job.

Minister for Ambulance Services Jenny Mikakos today met some of the new support dogs helping paramedics cope with the often traumatic and confronting emergencies they face every day.

The program started in May last year and is now being expanded and rolled out across the state with 12 dogs and handlers.

New recruits include three Golden Retrievers (Daisy, Chomp and Ted), two Labradors (Gracie and Angus), an Australian Shepherd (Skye), a Standard Poodle (Anna), an English Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Cash), and Old English Sheepdog (Millie) and a Groodle (Boomer).

Ambulance Victoria’s first Peer Support Dog, Bruce, who is now seven years old, and his handler, paramedic and peer support co-ordinator Ken Whittle, have visited hundreds of locations and helped nearly 3,000 paramedics.

Research shows the suicide rate for paramedics is four times higher than the State average and three times higher than for other emergency service workers. Emergency service workers can also report higher rates of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, stress and fatigue.

Spending time with a peer support dog and handler can provide comfort and support, breaking down the stigma associated with mental health and help start conversations with paramedics about mental health problems that can arise from their stressful work.

The program also raises awareness about the range of mental health support available to Victorian paramedics.

The Labor Government is supporting our ambulance service and has invested a record $1 billion to deliver more paramedics, more vehicles and more stations. This includes a $299 million boost announced in the Victorian Budget 2019-20.

The latest data shows our dedicated paramedics managed more than 8300 extra callouts across the state in the September quarter, arriving within the benchmark of 15 minutes for 83.3 per cent of Code 1 calls – a huge improvement from 71.8 per cent in 2014 under the Liberals.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Ambulance Services Jenny Mikakos

“Every day our hard-working paramedics face major trauma, responding to life threating emergencies and saving lives. We are doing everything we can to protect their mental wellbeing.”

“These cuddly and affectionate dogs are a wonderful way to help paramedics start to talk openly about mental health in high-stress jobs.”