PEOPLE passing by the main entrance of the presidential palace in Nicosia in the last three months, would have noticed an elderly gentleman sitting there, with a banner behind him. He is always there, despite the sweltering summer heat. He is Christos Andreou, president of the Pancyprian association for cancer Elazo that is campaigning for the establishment of radiotherapy departments at the Nicosia and Limassol hospitals.
Yesterday he had completed 100 days outside the presidential palace, his peaceful, one-man protest having begun on May 22. To mark the occasion he issued a statement saying he was campaigning for “the obvious for every civilised state or at least every European state.” In the statement he said “we vowed not to stop fighting for (the creation of) state radiotherapy departments at the Nicosia and Limassol general hospitals until they are established.” He also complained that President Anastasiades was unable to sacrifice 10 minutes to see him.
It is difficult not to admire Andreou for the incredible level of commitment and dedication to his cause. Unlike most people, who are only prepared to engage in public protest when their personal interests are stake, Andreou is campaigning for a cause he has nothing personal to gain from. He is not an importer or agent of radiotherapy equipment, he is not a doctor seeking employment and he is not after a public post. He is campaigning for what he believes would be in the best interest of his countrymen.
Of course the question, he has not answered is whether the country can afford to create radiotherapy centres at two state hospitals, when we have the Bank of Cyprus Oncology Centre that is used by the state sector, which pays its operating costs and covers all the treatment needs of cancer patients? The government is currently looking at ways of cutting €700 million from its annual spending – not to mention the re-organisation of the state health sector – and the establishment of new radiotherapy centres could not be regarded a priority, especially as we have an excellent Oncology Centre.
Perhaps in the future, once the national health scheme is introduced and there are funds available, the opening of a radiotherapy department at Limassol General Hospital could be considered in order to spare patients from the Limassol and Paphos districts from having to come to Nicosia for treatment. But for now, new departments are out of the question, no matter how much longer Andreou is prepared to carry on his protest outside the presidential palace.
Harsh as it may sound, we cannot have an individual, no matter how well-meaning he may be, dictating state health spending and the priorities of the state healthcare system.