New program injects Border with interns

The Border will be home for Chris McRae, Anna Keedwell and other interns at Albury Wodonga Health. Picture: TARA GOONAN
The Border will be home for Chris McRae, Anna Keedwell and other interns at Albury Wodonga Health. Picture: TARA GOONAN

ALBURY Wodonga Health hopes changes to its intern program this year will lead to better retention rates of newly trained doctors.

The hospital this week welcomed 19 interns and 13 hospital medical officers to its junior medical staff — an increase from the 13 interns and 10 officers it employed last year.

Not only that, 15 of those interns will be based at AWH for two years, instead of visiting the Border for 10-week rotations from metropolitan health services.

AWH executive director of medical services Alistair Mah said the boost was ideal as the service expanded.

“We want them here so they can be more involved with the community and get to know people,” he said.

“When they’re here for just 10 weeks, by the time they get used to the system, they’ve gone.”

Dr Mah said AWH believed it was also a good chance to attract and keep doctors on the Border.

Chris McRae, a student at the University of NSW clinical school for two years, jumped at the chance to stay in Albury.

“There was nowhere else I really wanted to move to,” he said.

“Everyone at AWH is really welcoming, and I knew the opportunities and experience I could have here.

“The patients also seem to be happy to have students around.”

While Dr McRae wasn’t sure of the area of medicine he’d like to specialise in, he was keen to stay in a regional area.

Originally from Bathurst, he said many young people who moved to the city found it hard to return to their rural and regional homes, but “fortunately that’s not an issue for me”.

“I can see myself staying here,” he said.

“There’s been a big push to keep doctors where they are trained and, with the clinical school being here, the two-year internship will be really beneficial.

“It means I can set up my life here and it’s nice to have a base in a place where I want to be.”

For fellow intern Anna Keedwell, the region offered everything she and her family needed.

She liked the idea it was close to Melbourne, had plenty of services, things to keep the children occupied and was close to the snow.

Her husband and four children will join her from Newcastle later this month and their intention is to stay at least until their 13-year-old boys have finished school.

“We want to put down roots here,” she said.

Dr Keedwell, who has completed a cadetship with NSW Rural Doctors, said she had long been keen to be a rural GP and had been impressed with AWH after her first visit.

“The people (in rural, regional areas) are really interesting, down-to-earth people and I really like that,” she said.

“Clinically, we get to do a lot more than in the big city hospitals and work closely as a team.”