Sports teams around the nation must be quaking in their boots at rumours Geoffrey Edelsten is looking to sell an interest in medical clinics with a value estimated in media reports at as much as $200 million.
When the flamboyant former GP was spending big in the 1980s he famously bought the Sydney Swans as a birthday present for then wife Leanne, a glamorous former model who was half his age.
The current Mrs Edelsten, Brynne, is a well endowed blonde 40 years his junior though, as an American import, her tastes may tend more towards gridiron than Aussie Rules.
Edelsten recently graced the cover of Fairfax’s Good Weekend magazine in a shiny silver and mauve leopard print suit beside the bodaceous Brynne.
Restraint has never really been his thing, as witnessed by his collection of 20-odd luxury cars, including a Lamborghini with the number plate D8B8 (date bait).
The former bankrupt, deregistered medico and convicted criminal (perverting the course of justice and soliciting hitman Christopher Dale Flannery – he of Underbelly fame, no less – to assault a former patient of one of his clinics) has a remarkable ability to reinvent himself.
Last week, The Australian reported he was looking for a buyer for medical centres in which he reportedly has an interest. More than 25 per cent of all Melbournians would have been through the doors of one of his clinics, Edelsten earlier told the Good Weekend.
In many ways, Edelsten can be seen as the precursor of today’s corporate general practice.
When he opened his first 24-hour medical clinic in Sydney’s Baulkham Hills on April Fool’s Day 1984, he set in train the transformation of general practice from cottage industry to professionally run business.
It was a bit like comparing Woolworths with the milkbar on the corner, and it was the beginning of the end for the solo GP. The business model was picked up enthusiastically and has left its mark on just about every general practice in the country.
There’s no doubt many GPs, and patients, have benefited from the more flexible hours, greater financial viability and the collegial atmosphere of larger, more business-like practices.
But you have to wonder if something has been lost too. One GP tells me how much she enjoys working in an 11-doctor practice but also sighs at the way patients have to queue at the front desk “like a shop”.
Jane McCredie is a Sydney-based science and medicine writer. She has worked for Melbourne’s The Age and contributed to publications including the BMJ, The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald. She is also a former news and features editor with Australian Doctor magazine. Her book, The Sex Factory, on the science of sex and gender will be published by UNSW Press later this year.