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This paper analyses the origins of today's crisis in the hospital sector in sub-Saharan Africa. Present trends in availability of hospital services are extrapolated to the future in order to provide a low-end estimate of the need for expansion of first referral level hospitals. This will not be possible without giving due priority to this sector, a commitment to considerable investments and reorientation of resources from tertiary to first referral level hospitals. It is to be feared that if this is not done, the backlog will increase, and, given the time lag before investments translate into operational services, there will be a major shortage of hospital services in sub-Saharan Africa within a decade.