Patrick Blaney was born in Belfast, where his father was a wine merchant. He studied medicine at Queen’s University Belfast and after graduation he worked in general practice, and in various hospital posts in Belfast and Nottingham. He was senior registrar at the General Hospital, Nottingham, between 1946-52. He married Mary Catherine McNeill in 1951 and they had nine children; five sons and four daughters.
Blaney moved to Dublin in 1953 as one of the first whole time consultants appointed by the then Dublin Board of Assistance. He joined four other consultants (one physician, two surgeons and one obstetrician) at Kevin’s Hospital. This small group of dedicated men faced the mammoth task of caring for over 2,000 patients. They brought modern medicine to the sick poor of the city, and they changed the image of the hospital from that of the South Dublin Union to that of an active municipal hospital.
Over the years many young doctors followed Patrick Blaney on his wardrounds. The length of these rounds and the number of patients seen on them are already legendary. Those who worked for him describe his great skills as a bedside clinician. Equally impressive was his humanity. He showed an awareness of the importance of social factors in the genesis of disease and in this he was a man very much ahead of his time. His acumen in diagnosis and treatment of acute illness was matched by his compassion and care for those with chronic disability. He was in every respect ‘a complete physician’, a doctor of the old school of bedside medicine who was well acquainted with the developments and possibilities of modern technology.
Students and young doctors benefited from his teaching. Most of his registrars went on to obtain higher degrees and they are now scattered around the world in consultant and professorial posts. Many of the county physicians worked on Patrick Blaney’s wards. He was an acute observer, and one of the earliest clinical reports on hypothermia came from his unit.
The achievement of Blaney and his colleagues in developing St Kevin’s Hospital contributed in a major way to the evolution of the present day St James’s Hospital. The decision to develop St Kevin’s as a major teaching and regional hospital and to amalgamate it with three other voluntary hospitals in the Federated Group (Mercer’s, Sir Patrick Dun’s and Baggot Street) was a momentous one. It called for long hours of planning and negotiation. Blaney became an active and committed member of the project team for the new hospital. He showed great generosity during the years of transition from St Kevin’s to St James’s, sharing his facilities with colleagues from other hospitals and encouraging the expansion of the consultant staff by the appointment of new young consultants. Thirty years ago, when Patrick Blaney arrived, there were five consultants; today there are 65 consultants attached to St James’s Hospital.
Blaney inspired all those who worked for him - junior doctors, nurses and paramedical staff - and he also unconsciously set standards for his colleagues in the hospital.
He had a very happy family life. He was a keen yachtsman and a member of the Royal St George Yacht Club, Dunlaoghaire; an interest which he shared with his children. He bore his final illness with bravery and continued to see patients up to a short time before he died. A Blaney gold medal for the best final year medical student has been established to commemorate this noble and wise physician in the hospital he served selflessly for so many years.
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme