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Connacht Tribune

Retired doctor’s latest chapter

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Vivian in the libary of his home, a former rectory.

Lifestyle – Dr Vivian Brennan worked as a GP in Athenry for nearly 40 years, catering for patients in a semi-rural practice at a time of great change. He drew on that experience for his debut book, a funny, sad, poignant, and wise collection. It’s populated by characters who are very real while all being fictional, as he tells JUDY MURPHY.

Early in their marriage, Dr Vivian Brennan’s wife, Anne, suggested he should write a book about his many experiences as a GP.  An excellent man to tell a story, he was practising in a semi-rural area which had many great characters, so her recommendation made sense.

Anne, who was also a doctor, worked alongside Vivian in their practice in Athenry until they retired in 2010. Shortly afterwards, Vivian embarked a course in creative writing to hone his storytelling skills.

The result is I Won’t Keep You a Minute Doctor: Tales from an Irish General Practice which has just been published. It’s a book that manages to be laugh-out-loud funny, while also containing moments of real sadness and trauma. It’s wise and compassionate too, although definitely not rose-tinted. Vivian’s chapter about one hypochondriac patient perfectly captures the frustration of a busy GP who is all too aware that his time is being wasted. It’s a hilarious and toe-curling account of a patient – known in the profession as a ‘heartsink patient’ – who counters his every medical reassurance by producing yet another mystery condition. Nothing can stop her, not even the urgent need to visit the bank before it closes for the day. Other doctors might have been more clinical in dismissing her, but managing appointments was something Vivian was never great at, he says with a rueful laugh.

It’s easy see why, because Vivian is highly sociable.

Sitting in an old-style room of his period home in Athenry, he entertains and educates in equal measure.

It’s filled with family memorabilia, including photos of Anne and their children. She became ill in 2017 and passed away in 2018. Although Vivian’s book was well-advanced at that stage, everything stopped for a time after her death.

“I hadn’t the heart for much,” he says simply. “But she wouldn’t have approved of that.”

Knowing that Anne wanted him to complete it spurred him on. His friend Francis Kennedy-Beirne came on board as illustrator, having originally been asked to design the front cover. Francis’s vibrant drawings are perfect complement to Vivian’s animated writing style. Each colourful drawing features the doctor in his bow tie, no matter what the circumstances. One has him sitting with a patient in a flea-ridden cottage where the toxic insecticide DDT was employed liberally.

The impression is of a composed, kind man who treated everyone equally. And as Vivian recalls the bachelor farmer, Jack, and his dog, Bismarck, who feature in that particular chapter, it’s clear the regard he had for this patient. Never mind that visiting Jack caused nocturnal trauma at home, with Vivian scratching himself continually in bed in the nights that followed. It’s a wonderful insight into an Ireland that no longer exists.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars

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Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.

That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.

Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.

Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.

Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.

“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.

“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.

“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.

Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year.  Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.

Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.

Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.

“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.

Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.

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Connacht Tribune

Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team

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Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.

The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.

Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.

Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.

“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.

It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.

“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”

She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.

“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.

There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.

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Connacht Tribune

Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78

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Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.

Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968

As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.

From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.

When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.

Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.

A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.

Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later

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