A Revealing Look At Public Health Care In The United States
In this documentary about public health care in the U.S., a 24-hour period at Oakland, California's Highland Hospital shows how patients who have no health care insurance and who cannot afford to visit private doctors come to the overcrowded and understaffed emergency room of a pubic hospital for treatment for their life threatening ills.
People in Need
There is the young man who has been sent to Highland Hospital by a private hospital because he needs immediate surgery to remove a tumor that's likely to be malignant, and the private facility won't treat him because he has no insurance. There's a young girl who's brought to the emergency ward by her terrified father because she has a dangerously high fever and her throat is so swollen she can barely swallow. There is an elderly women who comes in and reports a minor ailment, but then requests a sandwich because she's hungry. And there's a teenage boy who is the victim of a shooting. As the film's lead characters, they're all sympathetic, and their needs are quite clear.
Hospital worker Cynthia Johnson, in charge of intake, does her best to see that they are seen, but she must explain to patients who've been waiting for hours that they most likely will not be seen for hours more because others whose needs are more immediate will be seen before they are. The doctors who are capable and caring try to find beds for all who need admission. They call other Highland Hospital wards and other area hospitals to ask for clearance to transfer patients to their care.
Haves and Have Nots
It's a no win, heartbreaking situation. And, this verite visit to Highland Hospital reflects what's happening with public health care in cities and towns across the United States. The film is a real reveal about America's great health divide: the haves and have nots.
The film is not shot entirely in the waiting room, but follows patients and doctors into triage treatment rooms. Some of the footage is bloody and hard to watch.
Capturing the Fullness of Time
Filmmaker Peter Nicks uses time lapse sequences and other effects to show the flow of traffic through the hospital's emergency room intake during the course of the 24-hour period, but other than that, the film is a fine example of direct cinema in which situations are shown without voice over narration or instructive polemical interpretations. Still,
The Waiting Room ia very clearly intended to raise awareness about the shortcomings of public health care in the United States and what it means for these patients -- and million of others like them -- to live without without health insurance. Because health care is a primary issue in the upcoming election, this film's release is timely indeed. It calls for a much needed examination of public priorities and policies regarding social welfare in the United States.
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- Title: The Waiting Room
- Director: Peter Nicks
- U.S. Theatrical Release Date: September 26, 2012, in limited release/
- Running Time: 82 mins.
- Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
- Production Country: USA
- Filming Locations: Emergency Ward, Highland Hospital in Oakland, California
- Language: English
- Theatrical Distribution Company: International Film Circuit
- Official Website