Ten junior doctors have started work at Whangarei Hospital, including four from the area and others who have been through a unique rural immersion programme in the region.

The doctors are among 377 graduate doctors who have filled positions across the country after completing five years of medical training.

Among them are Hayley Foster and Ruth Bollen from Whangarei and Lydia Vujcich and Tamara Birchall from Kaikohe, both of whom attended Okaihau College.

Dr Bollen, Dr Birchall, Linda Vujcich and Catherine Askew recently completed the one-year Pukawakawa programme in Northland.


Health Minister Tony Ryall has welcomed the junior doctors who have filled positions at Whangarei Hospital, saying they will be under supervision and gain broad experience during their placement.

"I really wish these new junior doctors well for this next stage of their medical education," he said.

"Despite the fact doctor retention is at an all-time high, every New Zealand citizen and permanent resident who graduated from one of our medical schools has been offered a position.

"This will take the number of full-time employed doctors by the Northland District Health Board to an estimated total 236 - an increase of about 70 extra doctors under this Government.

"Despite many countries freezing or even reducing their health spending, the National-led Government has invested an extra $500 million a year on average to grow and protect public health services, including employing more doctors."

A quarter of the fifth-year students who get a taste of rural immersion in Northland return to continue their training here.

Out of the 80 University of Auckland students who took part in Pukawakawa since its inception in 2008 until 2012, 20 students have returned as junior medical staff.

The Pukawakawa programme is run by the University of Auckland in partnership with the Northland District Health Board and was the first of its kind between a medical school and a health board.

Every year, there are 10 places at Whangarei Hospital for first-year provisional registered medical officers (interns or house surgeons) and, in the past four years, half of those 40 places have gone to the university's Pukawakawa students.