Medical trainees begin term as Omicron continues to spread across NSW

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Riverina’s medical interns are facing bigger than usual challenges this year as they begin their careers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There have been record numbers of trainees across the state, with 1,000 joining New South Wales Health in 2022.

Of these, 31 have already started at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital and two will start at Griffith Base Hospital this week.

Junior Chief Medical Officer (JMO) Aziz Lawandos, from Sydney, is looking forward to the challenges ahead.

“I’m really excited to enter the workforce; I hope to provide much-needed help and assistance to all of the military medics who have been doing the tough stuff over the past couple of years,” Dr. Lawandos said.

The interns’ first year comes as the local Murrumbidgee Health District continues to battle COVID-19, specifically the Omicron variant.

Since July 1 last year, there have been more than 17,000 cases in the region.

But Indiana Chant, a JMO from Leeton, said the group had undergone training during the pandemic.

“It’s definitely a bit daunting to know that we’ll be working in the COVID ward and in the pandemic,” Dr. Chant said.

“However, it’s something we trained for, and we’ve already completed two years of our degree in this current pandemic, so I think it trained itself.”

It is hoped that JMOs will not only gain a better understanding of the healthcare and hospital system during their internship year, but also gain insight into the region.

Retention of the regional workforce

Chris Mumme, an anesthesiologist who completed his internship at Wagga alongside his wife, said laying the groundwork for interns was crucial to bringing more doctors to the regions.

Chris Mumme is the director of pre-vocational education and training.(ABC Riverina: Sam Robinson)

“If we can provide them with a positive experience, both on and off the job, we are more likely to bring people back like me and my wife have; like my fellow surgeons who I work with regularly, like doctors coming in,” Dr Mumme said.

“It’s not just the specialists too; I’d like to see if more than 50% of them end up as GPs, not just in Wagga, but in Cootamundra, Gundagai, Tumut, Temora.

“All the small towns around here desperately need it and from talking to this cohort, I think there are 40 or 50 percent who are seriously considering this, this early in their careers.”

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