Need and opportunity for obstetrics in the Outback

  • Dr Sally Magoffin enjoying the sunset at Lake Moondarra, Mount Isa. [Image: James Cook University]

Dr Sally Magoffin enjoying the sunset at Lake Moondarra, Mount Isa. [Image: James Cook University]

James Cook University, College of Medicine and Dentistry
Andrew Cramb,
Communications and Engagement Coordinator

Through droughts, floods and now a global pandemic, north-west Queensland towns like Mount Isa have faced their fair share of adversity. Supporting these resilient communities is a health service network spanning more than 300,000 kilometres that is training junior doctors, like Dr Sally Magoffin, who are passionate about providing general and specialist care to the region.

After graduating from James Cook University (JCU) in 2020, Dr Magoffin moved to Mount Isa to pursue obstetric training opportunities in a rural setting. She says she immediately saw the need for good antenatal care and options for locals to have their babies delivered in their home region.

‘We have such a diverse population and we have women coming from remote areas who might not have had the opportunity to receive antenatal care yet. The need for obstetric- and midwifery-based care in this region is huge and there's a fantastic opportunity that comes with that. As a doctor, you get to make a really big impact on the region and people's lives,’ Dr Magoffin says.

Mount Isa Hospital is part of the North West Hospital and Health Service (NWHHS) which also includes two multipurpose health services, three remote hospitals, four primary health clinics and five community health centres. It serves a population of approximately 32,000 people across 300,000 square kilometres.

‘Having these specialists in Mount Isa makes a huge difference from a travel perspective as well. Without the services here, you would have to travel a long way for something like a caesarean section. That can be expensive and stressful. So with obstetric specialists here, patients get to stay at home, be with their family and enjoy this time.

‘Obstetrics is such a beautiful and important specialty; the perfect mix of surgical and medical skills. It can be very tiring, but you go home with a smile on your face pretty much every day,’ Dr Magoffin says.

Dr Magoffin was immediately struck by the close-knit and welcoming community of Mount Isa and its resilience through hardship.

‘This town is so friendly, inclusive and supportive. It's a lovely hospital community here. I’ve never felt this level of workforce morale anywhere else. You will be so included and welcomed into the Mount Isa community,’ Dr Magoffin says.

The decision to work in a rural hospital setting is paying off for Dr Magoffin. With exposure to a variety of specialties and cases, supportive supervisors and hands-on experience, she is a big advocate for pursuing training opportunities in the northern Queensland region.

‘The senior team across all specialties here are incredibly supportive. They focus on getting the junior doctors heavily involved and encouraging them on whichever pathway they want to go. Just the other day, I got to have a go at my first-ever caesarean section which, two weeks into my second year, is pretty unheard of! It was made possible because I’ve got a supervisor who sought out that opportunity for me and was happy to facilitate it,’ Dr Magoffin says.

Dr Magoffin will spend the remainder of 2022 rotating through the hospital specialties with a focus on obstetrics and gynaecology. She then plans to undertake advanced skills training in obstetrics to help address the community’s need for these services.

‘There's been so much development in the north over the years and there are some incredible doctors who have helped take us a long way towards boosting our workforce and expanding the training opportunities on offer. We’re growing and it’s an exciting time to be out here.’

Assisting junior doctors like Dr Magoffin in their journey to specialty training is Northern Queensland Regional Training Hubs (NQRTH), facilitated by JCU in partnership with a network of hospitals, health services and GP clinics. Find out more at

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