Geoff Edelsten’s Career

By October 31, 2007 June 1st, 2020 Career

During Edelsten’s intern year he showed his penchant for innovation and business by rostering his colleagues to provide relief (locum) work for surrounding private practices.  Edelsten also commenced the first home visiting service in Melbourne.  This was Melbourne’s first after-hours medical deputising service.

During Edelsten’s medical undergraduate years he developed a love for popular music, and after helping promote a number of artists, including the Francoise Hardy Number 1 "Only you can do it", formed his own label "Scope Records" and began managing bands.  An early discovery was John Farnham, who come for an interview and sang in the nurses room at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, before signing with EMI and a hugely successful career followed.  Geoffrey Edelsten managed the group The Last Straws and helped co-write their first hit record "I can’t stop loving you baby".

Geoffrey Edelsten produced two number one records – "Everlasting Love" by the Town Criers (this song has been recorded many times since by numerous artists including Doug Parkinson, U2, Gloria Estefan and others, and was in the Bridget Jones Diary film).  Edelsten’s second number one record was "Love Machine" by a studio group Pastoral Symphony.   Other groups with whom Edelsten was involved in the early days of Australian music included Cam-pact, and they had more than ten Top 10 records.

Following his term as an intern Geoffrey Edelsten became a country doctor at Birchip in Western Victoria, and then Wauchope in N.S.W. where he commenced learning to fly.  He completed his private pilot’s licence whilst at Aramac in Western Queensland.

Country Doctor
In Aramac, Edelsten was the only doctor for approximately 100km and he used his plane to service remote communities.  At the end of his contract period at Aramac he moved to Walgett in North Western N.S.W. where he bought his first practice.  Edelsten used his plane, a Piper Cherokee Arrow VH-PFB, to provide a medical service to surrounding towns of Lightning Ridge and Burren Junction, and would regularly visit Coonamble, Coonabarabran and Dubbo, using his plane to take ill patients from Walgett to the Dubbo Base Hospital.  Edelsten has been widely acclaimed for his life saving work.  Because of the absence of veterinary surgeons, Edelsten was called upon to assist with veterinary emergencies.  As a result of his love of flying, he pursued, and was granted, approval as a civil aviation medical examiner, providing medical examinations for pilots.  As the only doctor in the town he was a State and Commonwealth Government Medical Officer, and performed autopsies for the Coroner.  Edelstenf was also an Honorary Medical Officer for Walgett District Hospital.
In 1971 Edelsten moved to Sydney following his love, Ngaire, a flight attendant whom he met on a commercial airline flight.  Edelsten recruited another doctor to work at Walgett and would return using his plane at least once per week.  Edelsten purchased a practice in Coogee and an apartment near by. 

Group Practice
This was followed by practices in Hammondville, Moorebank, Chipping Norton, Georges Hall, Fairfield, Liverpool, Macquarie Fields, Campbelltown and Eastlakes.  This was the first time in Australia that a group practice had established multiple locations.  Key medical practitioners were recruited for many of the sites, but Dr. Geoffrey Edelsten visited all sites in a gruelling work schedule, which commenced at 5.00 a.m. operating 6 days per week, and then would consult until midnight virtually 7 days per week.  Edelsten was informed by Government authorities that he was the busiest doctor in Australia[4].

Edelsten was appointed an Honorary Medical Officer at Liverpool District Hospital, Fairfield District Hospital, Bankstown District Hospital and Greenoaks Private Hospital.  It has been estimated that Edelsten has delivered approximately 20,000  babies[5] in his professional life.

His work as a country doctor equipped him to undertake a wide range of surgical procedures which was increasingly rare for a GP.  Edelsten would regularly do Ts & As (Tonsils and Adenoids), Appendix, Laparoscopy, D & C (Dilatation & Curettage), Vasectomy, Circumcision and many others.
In the early 1970s Edelsten changed pathology practices in Australia with the first commercial pathology laboratory – Preventicare.  Until this time a GP would refer patients to a pathologist for pathology collection and testing.  This was performed at the pathologist’s rooms.

In the Preventicare model, GPs would collect the specimens from the patient, couriers would then collect the specimens and they were then processed at a central laboratory.  Results were provided to the referring GP via telecommunications using IBM’s "call 360" service.

Geoffrey Edelsten introduced the most modern pathology testing equipment for the first time in Australia, and this included a biochemistry analyser, which could process 12 different biochemical examinations in a very short time, at a fraction of the cost of existing equipment.  This resulted in pathologists being forced to duplicate the technology in order to compete.
This was the first time in Australia, and one of the first times in the world, that these changes to pathology were introduced.

The business expanded rapidly and was supported by leading medical practitioners such as Professor Fred Hollows.  The rapid expansion was funded by a merchant bank, Development Underwriting Limited (DUL), and a laboratory was commenced in Melbourne in addition to the Sydney laboratory.  Within months, hundreds of general practitioners and specialists had joined the network.

After a market crash, DUL were unable to continue its funding and the company was forced into administration.  After a short period under Administration, the company traded out of its difficulties and became most successful.

Geoffrey Edelsten predicted that because of new technologies, the rebates under the government’s medical benefits scheme would be reduced significantly.  Although this took several years, Edelsten decided to sell his interest to his junior co-shareholder, Dr. Thomas Wenkart for several million dollars.  Wenkart went on to develop one of the largest pathology companies in Australia – Macquarie Pathology, before selling to Mayne Health.

Centrefold Nightclub
In 1975 Geoffrey Edelsten established a nightclub which he called "Centrefold".  It was located in the heart of Sydney’s entertainment district.  The site had previously been a licensed club.  It was the largest club of its type in Sydney, and could accommodate more than 2,000 people.

It consisted of three floors, in addition to a ground floor reception.  On the first floor was a theatre restaurant and provided live Australian productions served with dinner.  On the second floor was the showroom where top international acts of the time starred, whilst an a-la-carte restaurant provided cuisine from leading chefs.

Hit makers, such as the Stylistics, Billy Jean Bodine, George McCrae and many others, starred.  It was the place to be – visitors and patrons included the Australian A-list, and a continuous stream of international stars including ABBA.

On the top floor was a penthouse private club where people clamoured to be invited.

Bewilderingly, the authorities opposed a liquor licence, despite it being previously licensed, on flimsy grounds of fire exits.   Edelsten was subject to extortion threats where substantial payments were demanded to provide warning of police raids.  The club continued trading whilst prosecuting appeals, but the logistics of supplying liquor bought from retail suppliers, and on-selling, were onerous and unduly expensive.  After one year it was closed.

Other New Business
Edelsten commenced an innovative service providing movies to hotels called Video Cinema Pty Ltd.  This was the first time in Australia that movies could be watched by patrons in hotels in Australia.

The fitness revolution had not begun but Edelsten forecast that weight control and fitness would become major elements in society.  He took over John Valentine Health Clubs and expanded them to new locations.  They were glamorous, upmarket centres with pools and gymnasiums.

He took over a group of weight loss centres in Sydney and Melbourne and became an expert in the Protein Sparing Modified Fast[6,7].


[4] Edelsten & Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria 1994
[5] Medical Tribunal of N.S.W.  2001
[6] Medical Journal of Australia, 17 Sept, 1977
[7] Medical Journal of Australia, 22 April, 1978

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