The penance for an extended holiday is returning to more than a metre of reading of the latest medical news. And what a depressing read it is.

On one hand, there are the usual stories of outrage from various medical leaders and organisations: how dare anyone presume to step onto our professional turf? On the other hand, there are the usual depressing stories of how doctors can’t be found to work in areas of need, whether it’s the bush, the disadvantaged ‘burbs, mental health, Indigenous health…and the list continues.

On the one hand, the general media is full of stories about the dire straits of public hospitals while, on the other hand, much of the informed health debate is about the pressing need to strengthen primary care and prevention.

What to do? A good start – for health ministers, treasurers, premiers and the PM, not to mention their helpers – would be to read John Menadue’s recent suggestions in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Unlike the discussion papers over at the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission (and what a nightmare these must be for policy makers trying to make sense of them), Menadue offers some straightforward political strategies for achieving change. The question is whether the Government, struggling to juggle economic and environmental meltdown, will have the heart to pick a fight with the powerful vested interests identified by Menadue?

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