Bishop Meletios & WCC Team: their involvement with the former hospital at Potamos



Bishop Meletios & the WCC Team-Kythera: their involvement with the former hospital at Potamos


Meletios Galanopoulos was elected Bishop of Kythira the 18th of April 1956. The 22nd of the same month he was ordained and the 3rd of May, a Holy Thursday, his enthronement took place. He served as a spiritual overseer of the Diocese of Kythira for the next 13 consecutive years. On May 21, that same year 1956, the new hospital ‘Trifyllio’ in Potamos was opened.


Anna and George Koksma from The Netherlands arrived end of April 1960 on Kythira. They were sent out by the World Council of Churches of Geneva after a request by Bishop Meletios made in 1956 in which Bishop Meletios had asked for help to stop the emigration of the islanders by improving their living conditions. The WCC answered this request in a positive way in a letter by the 3rd of December 1956. This letter from the WCC is brought to the awareness of Kytherians during the “Pankythiraiki” assembly that took place in Myrtidia the 20th of January 1957. George Koksma was architect and civil engineer.

Anna and George to learn about the needs of the Kytherians do visit the hospital at Potamos to see some ill people and come to discuss with the doctors what is needed the most urgent.


*Click here and read more about the World Council of Churches Team Kythira


1960 the west wing of the Hospital Trifilio in Potamos


By the end of May 1960, the Bishop asks Mr. and Mrs. Koksma for their opinion on the hospital at Potamos and to make a study of all possible improvements. At that time according to the Bishop the staff did not match the requirements they should have as doctors. Also, the building itself, for instance no clean looking facilities, was not suited for its purpose. The lack of enough clean water only made all problems worse. There did not exist a cistern to catch and hold rainwater. For this general water problem on the island, George wrote to a Dutch plastic pipe fabricator he already had contacted still being in Holland. To find the water to fill these pipes was something else he had to look into. One month later the Bishop had taken care to get a new staff from Athens (in later months and years replacing of single persons was something quite normal to the Bishop!) and had ordered two engineers to come down and inspect the faults of parts of the building. Behold the rage the Bishop vented upon contractors who had not worked according to the original drawings! He asks George to make a drawing of an extension to the building. Mr. Koksma wrote a letter to Philips, Holland, in July asking for a new X-ray apparatus for the hospital. However, through a letter from Mr. John Metzler WCC office in October, a complete Roentgen set from Siemens Germany, was promised to be delivered by “Brot fur die Welt” (Evangelical Churches of Germany). This Roentgen set eventually arrived at Kapsali and was taken to the hospital in a procession over the road lead by the Bishop the 19th of March 1962.


Below photos of the arrivel of a new X-ray from Siemens in Germany, photos made by mr Koksma. Click on a photo to enlarge.




Mid-August Mrs. and Mr. Koksma themselves start painting the hospital bedroom furniture. Some people wonder why Mr. Koksma himself is doing such manual work! For women, this of course was more normal. In his work diary he writes that within six weeks thanks to the Bishop the appearance of the hospital has changed from a worn-out place to a decent house. A list with shortcomings, such as not having a patient waiting room, a consulting room, no adequate kitchen, central heating and sewerage and no place yet for the Roentgen set, etc., is presented by Mr. Koksma in September. George proposes a separate generator shack and another one for refuse. Finance Minister Aliprandes visited the hospital November 26.



1960 The Bishop stands in between Mrs. Koksma and the Minister. Potamos village president stands right front. Photo E. Sofios


Three weeks later Bishop Meletios as president of the Board of the hospital called the hospital a scandalous bad building. George promised to investigate the matter and asked the doctors to provide him with a complete list of all their wishes. At Christmas Anna and George offered the patients in the hospital small X-mas surprises. This became customary for them in the years to come.


In January 1961 George does visit the hospital several times and early February he had a full survey ready. In the past months the Bishop had asked for a motor shack, incineration of refuse, car entrance, a decent laboratory, kitchen, dead-mans-bin, garage, expansions here and there, etc. George had decided to wait some time before jumping on all these separate requests and had also asked the chief doctors a comprehensible list of all their requirements. This had taken them a full month. Now this preliminary design, including all wishes and future wing extensions, was discussed with the Bishop, the Board of the hospital and Mr. Sinis, governmental civil engineer, on February 11. This design had their support. But the actual design must be made by the governmental architect. Architect Mr. Maltos arrives May 7. He simply states that the government does not have the money for these works. George tries to turn him around to propose a design to the Minister and to see how much money the Minister still could grant for this project. The remainder part then could be found on the island. The Director of Doctors-of-Piraeus by the end of July, however, totally disagrees with the hospital design of architect Maltos as it has according to him a wrong layout.


Repair of the leaking roof of the hospital started September 11. George wrote in his diary: “no more pots and cans are required around the beds to catch the dripping water when it rains”. This same day George discussed the new garage with Mr. Sinis.


A complete wireless radio set to the hospital, donated by Mr. Otten, President-Director of Philips-Holland, is installed October 17. The necessary speeches at the hospital are held 2 days later. Already July 24 the delicate parts of this donation, addressed to Mr. Koksma, had arrived in Athens but were then handed into Bishop’s care and were ‘dumped’ in the storeroom of Stassos Skordilis, the Bishop’s warden. Mr. Zographos from Philips-Athens brought (spare) parts to Kythira October 11. Mr. R. Kijlstra from Inter Church Aid Holland happened to be on the island from 18 through 26 October and took some pictures of the use of the wireless radio set by patients, as did George Koksma.


*Click on a photo to enlarge



A meeting with the Bishop for some reason was called off the 23rd of February 1962 and instead George will write a report on the incorrect parts in the plans for the hospital, which architect Maltos himself called a catastrophic building. Unfortunately, there is for nearly 3 years a lack of Kythera-Team information on the hospital. In an overview of 5 years community development (April 1965) George writes that there is achieved a present enlargement of the hospital. In the work report of April/May 1965 Anna writes that the hospital has a gynaecologist who teaches young mothers how to take care of their babies. There is also a pic-pa health centre for babies in Chora, thanks to the Bishop.

Georges writes here about another success by the Bishop, mainly politically achieved by continuously requesting the government as of 1961 to provide water to the hospital by artesian well drilling. So, in the end the Bishop’s “hospital first”, caused the well drilling installation to come to the island in 1965. Once the rig installation was on the island and successful, more drillings on other places could be done according to the Bishop. And in this way, it came true on many more locations!

The indicated location of the first drilling near Logothetianika was made reachable by the Team’s bulldozer by the end of May 1965. On request of the Bishop, after the successful drilling, the route of the pressure pipe to Potamos was mapped out by one of the Team’s technical students in April 1966. But before it was ensured that the hospital would get its so desperately needed water first, Potamos had to wait for this water in its water supply system that had been installed with aid of the Team in 1962.



Potamos 1962 street conference near the hospital about water supply, photo Jean Bingen


1966 summer camper Marijke de Lange the hospital in Potamos


At the hospital, no surgeon is available from October 1966 until March 1967. For even small operations people had to go to Athens. Having this new surgeon in house caused a crowded hospital. Mrs. Koksma unfortunately was a patient in the hospital for some days in October 1967. Having a surgeon on the staff was always a problem. Mrs. Dr. Hofstra from Holland paid a visit to the hospital in June 1970 and discussed some surgery matters with the surgeon. Through a fall on vacation on Kythira my wife Ina had to stay 4 nights in the hospital during a heat wave in July 1977. These same days they were repairing something on the concrete roof with jack hammers! Nowadays the building stays empty as off 2013 as it is replaced by a modern designed hospital located south of Potamos, behind the Osios Theodoros Monastery.


Jean Bingen

Fatsadika January 2021


*Click here and read more about the hospital Trifyllio and the foundation


**Below some photos of the abandoned hospital in Potamos, by Jean Bingen, click on a photo to enlarge  



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