Skip links

Professor Edmund Nyminyem Delle — An entrepreneur of many parts

*This article was first published in my column “Celebrating Entrepreneurship’ in Graphic Business on Tuesday, April 1, 2015

Dr Delle isn’t just your regular kind of doctor. He survived a plane crash once, and several other attempts by fate on his life.

So when I attended his clinic this particular Monday morning, just past 8 am, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that Rabito Clinic was full. Indeed the waiting room was bursting at its seams and I prepared myself for a very long wait.

When I finally got my turn with him, Dr Delle, of course, took his time to consult the notes on my file and then to examine me physically. He did the works; then proceeded to ask me a range of questions.

I am conscious of the people still waiting. And I feel guilty.

In these days of ‘cash and carry’ medicine, where doctors shuffle you in and out of their offices like goods on a supermarket conveyor belt, Delle is an outlier — and a rare dying breed of a doctor, for that matter, focused primarily on the wellbeing of his patients.

His clinics run an inspiring price discrimination model: those who can afford it and want to, pay for a VIP service (with shorter waiting times) so as to subsidise those who cannot pay for it. Dr Delle passionately believes that good quality healthcare should be available to all and it is a mission that he has risked his life several times.

Consequently, his clinics are a microcosm of the broader Ghanaian society. I overhear a waakye seller tell a nurse she is here in respect of ‘burns she sustained cooking waakye in the dark’ (thanks to ‘dumsor’). There are couple of acne-prone teenagers. Several nursing mothers. Head porters. Socialites. Business executives, politicians, lawyers, bankers and even other doctors.

This is entrepreneurship with a social conscience.

Chatting away about various issues, I learn that Doctor has just returned from ten days crisscrossing the country, visiting his nationwide chain of Rabito Clinics.

He’s here for three days and then he’s off again — this time to teach at the University of Development Studies in Tamale, where he is an Adjunct Professor of Dermatology.

My eyes wander to the map on the wall of Ghana, showing the network of Rabito clinics scattered across the country. There are sixteen of them in total, with 14 owned and operated by Dr Delle’s Rabito Healthcare Services Limited (RHSL).

Two Rabito Clinics (Tema and Kumasi) have recently been acquired by the holding company owned and run by his children, Golden Palm Investments. The two clinics have a franchise arrangement with RHSL. There are plans for more acquisitions.

His son Sangu tells me that when they are doing business it is “strictly arms’ length … They will do the father and son and love at home later”.

The calm professionalism of this progressive doctor belies the fact that he has seen the future of medicine in Africa and has plugged in. He foresaw that healthcare in Africa would inevitably move away from the old school ‘mom and pop’ enterprises.

Dr Delle is progressive and a visionary. He recognised the shift of power away from doctors to patient in the management of healthcare decades before it became part of the mainstream. A big part of that shift has occurred because the patient is now better educated about health conditions and has access to relevant information.

Delle has been at the forefront of demystifying skin conditions in Ghana and educating the patients in a way that is fairly unique to him.

It’s been a long journey from the village of Nandom where young Delle was destined for a life on the family farm, but for a fortuitous meeting with Catholic missionaries. He impressed them so much that they convinced his father to send him to a proper school.

The young Delle excelled. Although the youngest (and the smallest) in his year, he rose to the top of the class.

But his rise didn’t end there. A generous scholarship from the late Cardinal Derry took Delle to Italy and the University of Padua, where he obtained a doctorate in medicine and surgery.

Grateful for the opportunity, and influenced by the teaching of the Catholic Church, young Delle promised himself that he would return to “serve his kinsmen and his nation”.

That promise inspired his mission to take good-quality healthcare to the homes of all Ghanaians.

And indeed it is a promise that he has honoured every single day since he returned home in 1974.

It is also a promise that is almost cost him his life — seven times! He has survived six car accidents, many of them potentially fatal and a plane crash. When he arrived on board a flight from Tamale to Accra, someone had taken his seat at the front. Rather than make a fuss, he quietly took a seat at the back. That saved his life. The person who took his seat died instantly when the plane crashed.

Yet Dr Delle is undeterred. A few accidents cannot get in the way of what he essentially sees as work done in partnership with the Almighty. His business card reads modestly: “I medicate. God heals”.

In addition to a relentless focus on his mission, his flock, hard work and a progressive mind are some of the factors that have propelled Delle to where he is today.

He pursued his life purpose relentlessly on that Monday morning. The same way he had been doing for the last forty years, starting with a modest clinic in Kanda.

As I leave, I hear a head porter thanking the Doctor for providing her daughter care she could not imagine on her less than one dollar a day income.

I saw the man actually blush. Well, his chocolate complexion gets slightly darker. Or maybe I am imagining it.

He smiles.

And then calls the next patient.

And the next.

Cardinal Derry would have been proud.

A tangible case of impact investing. Perhaps.

Leave a comment