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As a medical school graduate and an apprentice physician, Dr. Wisdom Amegbletor wanted what many people want, to use his skills not only to make a living, but also to make a difference. In 2003, he opened his own private clinic in the Ghanaian town of Ashaiman, not far from where he had grown up. Back then, New Crystal Health Services was tiny, with just four beds, one doctor, and four other staff members. But it provided much-sought-after basic health services for the urban poor.

Eighteen years later, New Crystal is a multifaceted health care business with about 450 employees, six hospitals, a pharmacy, a dental care service, a diagnostic laboratory, a microfinance firm oriented toward medical emergencies, and a health care training institute. It continues to maintain the same basic mission that Wisdom Amegbletor started out with, which was to meet the needs of all patients regardless of income level. Most of New Crystal’s patients are working people raising families in dense, urban communities in Ashiaman and the nearby town Tema. With the public healthcare system overcrowded, and the private sector usually catering to the wealthier middle class, New Crystal is helping meet Ghana’s growing health needs, especially for the low-income segment, sustaining itself as a business by filling this gap in demand for care.

New Crystal’s innovative management style is a big part of its success. The company emphasizes mentoring and training staff to make decisions rapidly, and building strong relationships with patients, including after they leave the hospital. For example, when mothers leave the hospital with their newborns, the mothers continue to communicate regularly with the hospital staff and each other for post-natal guidance through smartphone apps, often for years afterward. In general, New Crystal’s respectful and helpful approach to women’s health and childbirth has been a major factor in its growth and success.

In 2019, IFC partnered in putting together a loan and equity investment package totaling $5.2 million, its first healthcare deal in Ghana. This enabled New Crystal to refinance some existing loans, to construct new facilities, to renovate and extend its clinical space, and to expand the range of its services. The funds also enabled a renewed commitment for staff training, focused on raising quality and supporting the emotional welfare of patients.

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020, it further highlighted the value of hospital groups like New Crystal. Its ability to keep going through adversity, and to retain its connection to the dignity of patients and staff members, has made a difference for many people at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

Timeline

Lessons

I. Seek opportunities at the bottom of the pyramid

II. Create a culture of learning and transparency

III. Emphasize services for women

IV. Cultivate resilience and flexibility

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