21 May 2024

Weipa Hospital says goodbye to 'one of the backbones' of facility

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Esther Rutherford surrounded by Weipa colleagues

Nurse Esther Rutherford (second from left) is surrounded by Weipa Hospital colleagues as she sets off for retirement after three decades of service to the region. Photo: Supplied.

Weipa will say goodbye to a face that has been a comfort for patients and families for more than 30 years at the township’s hospital this month.

Lead nurse Esther Rutherford is set to retire at the end of May after decades of service at Weipa Hospital, and director of nursing Kindee Lawty said her departure would leave a “huge hole” in both the facility and community.

“She’s pretty much one of the backbones of the hospital with her knowledge and ability to pick up the bits and pieces of the day-to-day stuff that happens,” she said.

“We’re busily trying to get that knowledge extracted from her and nominate certain people to take on those jobs, but she’s quietly gone about her business to perform certain tasks, so it’s going to be very difficult to replace her.”

As a long-term community member, the retiring nurse has an extensive knowledge of Weipa and its residents.

“Esther has good community connections, so she is aware of people, their families, and their circumstances,” Ms Lawty said.

“That certainly has contributed to the hospital being able to provide really good care to people in the community.”

Ms Rutherford did her nurse training in Cairns in the late 1970s, and moved to Weipa with her husband and first child in 1987.

She returned to nursing in 1993 after having two more children, and has been a familiar face at the hospital ever since.

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“There’s a couple of us long-term nursing staff who community members would always be happy to see, because they would be more comfortable seeing someone they knew,” Ms Rutherford said.

“It’s been a privilege to assist people during some significant times in their life.”

The nurse said patient advocacy was one of the most important things she learned in her role, especially in a remote facility with minimal staff.

“I remember as a student nurse I was a bit shy, but you have to overcome that, because you realise that the patient is in a situation where they are vulnerable,” she reflected.

“Especially in the days when we only had a single doctor, you can imagine him getting fatigued.

“If you saw something that wasn’t quite right, it was important to talk to the doctor in a respectful manner and confirm that was the treatment he was wanting.

“There’s times when he could go ‘oh, thanks for that’, and there’s other times you didn’t realise some treatments could work for other illnesses, and you learn as you go.”

Once she hangs up her scrubs for the final time, Ms Rutherford said she was excited to be moving to Cairns to be closer to family, but admitted the hospital and Weipa community would always hold a place in her heart.

“They’ve got my number, and I’ve told them they can call me anytime,” she said.

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