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THE MAN BEHIND A REVOLUTIONARY AFFORDABLE HEALTH PROTECTION SCHEME, WITH THE POTENTIAL TO COVER 90 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION, TAKES THE TOP PRIZE IN THE 2013 HAITI DIGICEL ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR AWARDS.

DOCTOR WINS ENTERPRISE AWARD FOR BRINGING HEALTHCARE TO THE PEOPLE OF HAITI

An  Ivy League-educated medical doctor and academic who has developed a revolutionary scheme to make universal private healthcare affordable in his native Haiti has been named Haitian Entrepreneur of the Year 2013.

Ronald Laroche – who followed his medical degree with a Master’s in Public Health from Yale and a post-graduate degree in Financial Engineering of Healthcare Systems from Harvard – is a professor at Haiti School of Medicine and is currently president of the 40-member Association of Private Hospitals.

Dr Laroche took the award for the extraordinary vision of DASH – Development Activities and Services for Health – the organization he set up in 1985 with the aim of achieving what had previously been thought impossible: modern healthcare and health protection plans for ordinary Haitians.

At a ceremony attended by some 700 guests from government and the private sector, as well as a strong contingent of the Digicel entrepreneur alumni, the chairman of the judging panel, Denis O’Brien, Chairman of Digicel Group, described the achievement of Dr Laroche and his team as “truly remarkable”.

“Not alone has Roland Laroche managed to design a disruptive new business model for the medical services sector, but he has shown it can achieve its daunting goal of making healthcare affordable in Haiti – and make a profit as well”, said Mr. O’Brien. “No award could be more heartily deserved.”

Dr Laroche’s basic model is to sell health protection plans through a pre-paid medical card system which allows subscribers to access services such as DASH’s ten medical centres and hospitals, which have 400 staff in total, 10 percent of whom are doctors, and operate 24/7.

The pre-paid cards cost from just $1 a month, which provides basic cover and facilities and free consultations; $5 a month, which includes those basics plus medicines and lab tests, and $10 a month, which adds hospitalization, surgery and maternity care.

The CEO of Digicel Haiti, Ineke Botter, said that Dr Laroche’s dedication to making his healthcare scheme a reality showed innovative thinking at its most inspirational and effective.

“With something as radical as this, I’m sure there were times when Roland Laroche doubted that he would achieve his goal, and I’m sure there were many sceptics he had to convince along the way. Such are the challenges facing those who champion change.

“But his forbearance won out, and his achievements have brought hugely worthwhile social benefits to the people of Haiti. This is a very fine example of exactly the type of work we all wish to see these awards recognize and applaud.”

The awards were presented in six categories. Dr Laroche, as well as winning the overall Entrepreneur of the Year title, took the award in the services section.

The coveted award in the emerging entrepreneur category was won by Alix Villedrouin of Ticadaie, who employs some 40 people in the manufacture and distribution of organically produced black coal briquettes which are cheaper than the widely used charcoal, last longer, and are environmentally friendly as it does not use trees as a raw material, and their ash can be recycled as fertilizer.

The winner in the industry sector was Sophia Zamor of Sotresa (Société de Traitement d’Eau), a company which delivers clean drinking water to more than a million people a day, including some of Haiti’s poorest. Zamor, who previously worked as a senior executive with consumer products manufacturer, Kimberley-Clarke, returned to Haiti to modernize her father’s business in 2011.

The winner in the construction category was Harold Charles of CEEPCO – he launched his US originated business in Haiti in 2010 and employed over 2,000 people last year on local projects. In education, tourism and culture the winner was Hugues Bastien of Institution Univers – founded in Quanaminthe in 1991, the school now has 2,300 students employs 210 teachers.  In agriculture and the environment, Enos Prosper of Eau Nossee was the winner – a man who has invested hugely in water treatment in the North of Haiti and employs 420 people.

The theme of the 2013 Digicel Haitian Entrepreneur of the Year competition was “Together Opportunity Grows”. Over 350 entered and ninety-six regional finalists took part in the second stage of the competition, and 24 – six from each of the four regions – took part in the national finals, from which the six category winners, including the overall winner, were chosen.

“As we close the door on the fourth year of the competition we are stunned yet again by the quality of the entrepreneurs who take part”, said Ineke Botter, following the presentation. “We wanted this competition to make a real difference to Haiti – and it does, every year.”

The Digicel Entrepreneur of the Year program is kindly supported by AIC, Camtel, Cemex, Coles Group, Groupe Jean Vorbe and The Clinton Foundation.