12/23/2013 09:12 EST | Updated 02/22/2014 05:59 EST

What It's Like Being a Hospital Patient in Mali

In Bamako, Mali the Point G, a University Hospital Centre, is for many Malians the ultimate stop for their survival.

However, in this very poor country, patients in public hospitals are required to pay for all the medical services, entry fees, lab tests and medications. In addition, while hospitalized, the patient's family and friends have the responsibility to provide food, feed the patient and do the laundry for days and sometimes weeks.

Moreover, during the hospitalization period, the family members and friends from outside Bamako will have to squat outdoors around the hospital buildings. That is love! With an average household income of approximately $1,100 US dollars a year, most Malians cannot afford the associated fees for medical care, and others will have to mortgage the family's extremely limited resources.

In Mali, being hospitalized in a public hospital means that you are quite sick and consequently, it is "worthwhile" for the state to offer you a bed. Being considered "worthwhile" is the brutal result of a painful decision taken by the doctors who are expected to evaluate the patient's chance of survival and life expectancy.

"A patient that shows up with advanced stage of cancer for which the family is unable to care, will not be considered "worthwhile" for an hospitalization and will be asked to leave and to return to his village," stated a doctor who prefers to remain anonymous. "The hard rationale is simple: this patient would be taking one of the very limited beds that could be offered to another patient with a better prognosis and longer life expectancy.

"We don't have beds to provide palliative care to help ease the symptoms, pain and stress associated with serious illnesses," said another member of the medical team. Hence, most patients with serious disease will die in their villages, rejected both by the family members who cannot provide the care they need and by their own medical system.

This situation repeats itself daily, not only in Mali, but in many African regions, war-torn countries and emerging nations. Don't worry, I am not going to ask you to give-up your toys! But rather to have a thought for all those suffering and their families: in particular those having to pay a visit to the "Point G" or similar medical facilities.

These are far from our North American concerns, as to whether the G-point exists or not. In fact, at the present time, the unquestionable presence of "Point G" or similar medical facilities offers the Malian patient his only chance of survival.

Happy Holidays from Mali.