A champion of the Innisfail community

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Innisfail Nurse Lesley Harris.

Innisfail Nurse Lesley Harris.

Innisfail Hospital director of nursing and facility manager Lesley Harris has been recognised for 40 years of service with Queensland Health.

Lesley has had an exciting and interesting career in various locations, but it is her life-long passion for rural and remote nursing which has seen her work in Innisfail Hospital for the last 22 years.

‘I began nursing at Townsville General Hospital in 1981 and progressed into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) once I had a little experience under my belt,’ Lesley said.

‘After a brief stint in midwifery at Kirwan Women’s Hospital I returned to the Townsville ICU and completed a graduate certificate in critical care.

Broken down ambulance.

‘One of my favourite memories from this time was flying into Papua New Guinea to retrieve a patient. We were on our way to Bougainville when the exhaust fell off the ambulance; we crawled around on the road and fixed up the exhaust before continuing to collect the patient.

‘I’ve held various roles here at Innisfail Hospital and completed various other qualifications including Rural and Isolated Practice Endorsement and a Masters of Nursing Sciences.

‘I’ve been the director of nursing and facility manager since 2006 and am very proud of the team we have here and the differences we have made for the local community.’

Jennifer Goodwin, acting director of nursing and midwifery for Rural and Remote Services says the Innisfail community has benefitted greatly having Lesley at the helm for the last 16 years.

‘Over that time she has led the redevelopment of part of the hospital; survived 2 category 4 cyclones (Larry and Yasi), has overseen the increase in clinical services across theatre, endoscopy and oncology; and implemented an all risk Midwifery Group Practice (MGP) model in maternity.’ Said Ms Goodwin.

‘Her commitment to Innisfail Hospital, and to the wider Innisfail community is very much appreciated by the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service.’

Johanne Stitt, who has worked with Lesley since 2005, admires her ability to think on her feet and stay calm under pressure.

‘Lesley stayed on site for both cyclones and did a wonderful job of managing those emergency situations,’ said Johanne

‘When Larry hit Innisfail, the hospital had to close due to the loss of water supply and Lesley then coordinated the patients being moved to Cairns Hospital. She has a wonderful talent of thinking on her feet, bringing everything back to perspective and calming those around her down.’

‘I couldn’t say enough positive things about Lesley – she’s an inspirational leader and a delightful colleague to work with,’ she said.

Each year, the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service recognises staff who have reached a five-year milestone in their length of service and made a significant contribution to our organisation.

In 2021 we have acknowledged 937 staff for their length of service, including nine who have reached 40 years of service (including Lesley Harris) and three who have reached 45 years. We are grateful for the dedication, hard work and commitment of these staff.