Social entrepreneur Doctor Dulcy Rakumakoe is driven by a dream that was sparked when she was six-years-old
I have often wondered if when people reach moments of success, they are aware that they have made it. And if they do – where did their story begin?
A person that comes to mind is the well-known and proudly LGBTIQ+ Doctor Dulcy Rakumakoe, the founder of Quadcare Health Centres, a chain of medical centres around Gauteng and Mpumalanga.
The vision behind the founding of these facilities was to make healthcare provision as accessible as possible to the ordinary person on the street. This vision, Dr Rakumakoe tells me, is one inspired by her grandmother and a promise she made when she was just six years old.
“Growing up in Temba, Hammanskraal, we only had one general practitioner. My grandmother used to come to Temba once a month from rural North West and I would go with her for her check-up. When I was six, she once said ‘you must grow up to become a doctor so that I don’t have to queue for a long time’, and from then on I knew I was going to grow up and be a doctor,” Dr Rakumakoe says.
After getting a bursary to study medicine and qualifying, she served at hospitals and rural communities in the North West province. Like many healthcare workers, she was faced with the reality of the public health system; a lack of resources, overcrowding and workers who are overburdened.
A few years later, she was reminded of her grandmother’s words and was faced with a decision, should she stay in rural North West or come to Johannesburg?
“I knew it wouldn’t be right for me to leave those communities and come to Joburg, so I decided to stay,” she shares. Her commitment to changing how health services are provided to people in impoverished communities saw her open her first medical practice in Vryburg.
Dr Rakumakoe gushes as she remembers how she was the first Black doctor in Vryburg, serving a few rural villages in the area, and how community members were astounded that this young woman was serving them with kindness and humility.
It was also in this community where she saw that many men were leaving to move closer to mining towns to seek employment at the mines. Her entrepreneurial spirit was curious, and her next frontier was located. She sold her Vryburg practice and moved to the mining town of Carltonville.
This led her at one point to manage occupational health services at a mine, run her own general practice, and somehow also be responsible for the medical needs of the women’s national soccer team, Banyana Banyana.
Of her work at the mine, she says “it was important work for me, I built a relationship with the mine and was responsible for ensuring the miners were fit to work underground, helping them with HIV care and other health needs.”
“I need to be able to make money, be sustainable and then I can do more for the people.”
In addition to her medical qualifications, she also holds a master’s in business administration – a qualification she credits with giving her the push to start Quadcare (formerly called Ucare).
“As part of the MBA we went on a trip to India and that is where I first heard the term ‘social entrepreneur’, which is exactly who I am; I am in business so that I can help the community. And I need to be able to make money, be sustainable and then I can do more for the people,” says Dr Rakumakoe.
“In India, I met other social entrepreneurs in different fields. When I came back, I decided it was time to turn my practice into something that could be replicated across the country,” she elaborates.
She also reflects on how planning and research are important. “The government at the time was also speaking about the National Health Insurance, so I needed to ensure that our facilities were built to provide private healthcare to low-income communities; we needed to be NHI ready,” Dr Rakumakoe says.
She later added another practice in Soweto and then a third at Johannesburg Park Station. And that is when she was approached by a group of investors who saw the possibilities behind her vision. Today, the Quadcare brand boasts 10 medical centres, with the most recent one opening in Mpumalanga.
Dr Rakumakoe says one of her biggest lessons as an entrepreneur has been recognising the value of relationships: “Relationships are important to the growth of your business; relationships with your workers are very important. Sometimes people are not the right fit for your business, it does not make them bad people. If that relationship is good, it has a positive impact on suppliers and other stakeholders.”
Dr Rakumakoe also talks about the need to learn about money management. Her first accountant defrauded her and left her in debt and her practice was at risk of closure. She was fortunate enough to have friends who could recommend an accountant who was able to help her recover and get her back on her feet.
We spend some time reflecting on the need for compassionate and queer-sensitive healthcare. She shares an experience of when she was a student and how one visit to a doctor who dismissed her queerness fuelled her need to ensure that her health centres are holistic and provide services in a dignified manner to every patient who walks into the centres.
Looking at the vision board, Dr Rakumakoe has ambitions to expand into other provinces and double the number of Quadcare centres. She also aims to work with big corporates in establishing internal company clinics. As an individual, she is passionate about building more entrepreneurs from townships who can have an impact on South Africa’s high unemployment rate.
As the co-founder of Queerwell, a Gauteng-based NPO that provides mental health care and support to the LGBTIQ+ community, it’s no surprise that another of Dr Rakumakoe’s interests is mental wellness.
She speaks about how working on herself with a psychologist has helped her become the woman she is, both at home and in business. Today, she continues to consult a therapist and has a life coach. She adds that she is also a member of a forum of entrepreneurs in which they share their experiences, which further helps her stay afloat mentally.
Dulcy Rakumakoe is a South African LGBTIQ+ role model and success story; as a doctor, entrepreneur and a change-maker. She’s also mastered that rare skill of combining her business and her passion into a harmonious whole.