Friday 22 March 2019

Dedicated Duncannon doctor retires after 29 years' service

Dr Kevin Byrne on the last day as a GP in his surgery in Duncannon.
Dr Kevin Byrne on the last day as a GP in his surgery in Duncannon.
Mairead Sinnott, practice manager; Conal McCarthy, GP; Pauline Byrne, practice nurse; Kitty Nolan, receptionist; Dr Kevin Byrne and Dr Helen Doyle.

David Looby

Friday marked the end of an era in Duncannon when Dr Kevin Byrne retired after almost 29 years caring for the health needs of thousands of local residents.

The Ballymun, North Dublin man - who is the doctor for the Wexford footballers - came to Duncannon in 1990, setting up a practise on the main street, having moved from Canada with his wife Pauline and young family. He took over a busy practise from Dr William Casey who was the doctor for the area since 1958.

He ran a weekly G.P. dispensary from Campile and had up to 4,000 patients, including 1,500 medical cards patients on his books. 'I am very grateful to be coming out of it at a time of my choosing,' he said, adding that he will miss the job, but is looking forward to retirement.

Dr Byrne graduated from UCD in 1974 and worked in a hospital for several years as a trainee doctor. He moved to Canada where he did G.P. work for 11 years before relocating to Duncannon. Having come from an urban area it took time for him to adjust to the demands that are part of a country doctor's work life. 'There was quite a big difference coming in to a rural practise. There were a lot of house calls. I used to share on call cover with Dr Cox in Fethard-on-Sea and we were working in an area far removed from a hospital, dealing with various situations, particularly during the summer and on the beach. Sometimes it was an injured fisherman. There were joyous moments, a lot of really great ones but a lot of very difficult moments as well.'

Dr Byrne got to know everyone in the community and it wasn't long before he got involved in the local GAA club, becoming St James's GAA Club chairman for many years and has also been chairman of the board of St Louis Day Care Centre. As his practise grew he knew it was time to re-locate so he built a surgery beside his house at Ballystraw, just outside the village in 2004. 'I got to know people and their circumstances and family histories which is very important for a G.P. The practise here has gotten progressively busier over the years and a number of years ago we took on a second doctor, Helen Doyle.'

Dr Byrne said due to the lack of doctors in the New Ross district his practise became busier and busier. 'We started getting a lot of patients from outside our catchment area wanting to join the practise because they couldn't get into a doctors in New Ross. A lot of practices are not taking on doctors in the town. We have been able to take most of these patients but we've found it very difficult to accept all of them.'

He said the most important attribute for a G.P. to have is a listening ear. 'We don't always do it properly but it is so important to listen to your patient. I have had good days and I have had bad days but looking back I've had a very satisfactory career life here in Duncannon and I am very grateful for the fantastic support I've had from the community, from the staff here: the practise secretaries and the practise manager.'

He wish Dr Helen, who hails from Palace East, Clonroche, the very best in her role. As for retirement, Dr Byrne plans to enjoy watching some GAA matches and spending time with his family.

New Ross Standard