Where on earth do I start? I promised my wife I would not post anything on Facebook until today, which is probably a good thing. In fact I was so angry after the meeting that I don't think my fingers would have worked.
We arrived for 08.30 as asked, and found a spot in the shade. The crowd grew and I estimated that there were perhaps half as many people again as had come to the last protest meeting. What was noticeable was that many, many people were demonstrably expats and that the number of Cypriots was far less. In fact if you took away the local politicians and mukhtars, the bar owners and other business people (who know that a closure of the hospital will be disastrous for the area) there were very few "ordinary" Cypriots present. So the power of Facebook, and other social media, meant that English-speaking users were "in the know". Interestingly there were people arriving as the Minister disappeared into A & E.
I had hopes that there might have been a public address system, and possibly a temporary platform (even a soapbox), but no such forethought. At least there was going to be a translator - well, if there was, I couldn't hear or see one. As last week there were Greek speakers helping those of us who couldn't understand.
The Minister was surrounded by the more politically active demonstrators, and there were some robust exchanges. After the meeting I talked to Mikis (from Miki's Tavern) who was apoplectic with rage. He had been told that there weren't really any problems at the hospital. Never backward in coming forward, he then listed the current understaffing at the hospital, the closure of wards and other issues, and was told by the Minister that he was not aware of such issues. He was ready to burst.
My friend Savvas told me that he had heard the Minister say that he hoped these problems could be resolved. A couple of British ladies challenged the Minister, but I could not hear clearly what was said.
Afterwards the rumour mill was in full flow. Over coffee, we heard that there was sufficient money to operate the hospital until October, after which time decisions would have to be made. It was also stated as a "fact" that Paphos doctors received €100 an hour, whist their Polis equivalents earned €25 an hour - which might explain the current recruitment problems. But I have no way of verifying these claims.
And so, having (with lots of others) urged people to attend, I find myself angry at what was a missed opportunity. I may as well have sent a cardboard cutout of myself to the meeting for all I learned. What was apparent was the number of local expats who told me they would have to review where they lived if the hospital closed. And I suspect none of us want to live closer to Paphos.
Quo Vadis? As with all politics, getting to the heart of the matter, in any country, is impossible. No doubt the Minister, as he swished off in his taxpayer-funded limousine - one of a new fleet the government has just taken delivery of - will mull over this farce of a meeting. Or perhaps not ...