This essay evaluates the transformation of the health care system in South Africa in the five years following the end of apartheid. This period has witnessed dramatic and wide-ranging changes in the roles of the central and provincial governments as well as many of the same problems related to decentralization as have been seen elsewhere in the world. The importance of effective intergovernmental relations to the creation of a national health system is highlighted. Negotiation, contracting, and coordination skills and mechanisms need to be strengthened to ensure a more effective national health system within a decentralized political system.

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