Hospitals play a vital role in the health care system. With organized medical, nursing and other professional staff, they deliver diagnostic, treatment, convalescent and terminal care services 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Traditionally oriented on individual care, hospitals are increasingly forging closer links with other parts of the health sector and communities in an effort to optimize the use of resources. Many countries have some form of “gate-keeping” or referral system to control access to the relatively expensive services offered by hospitals. For such systems to work well, primary care services need to function effectively and be responsive to their local communities.