The film is coming our and will start showing this week. Highland Hospital is a public hospital and the last resort for care for many. Again this week I heard that Romney stated this is the answer for the uninsured but as you know there are fewer public hospitals than we used to have. They have an average of 250 patients every day and sometimes the waiting time is up to 14 hours. With the current state budget cuts the CEO works every day to keep everything going and alive. We certainly don’t want to see fewer public hospitals but if the money doesn’t flow, we know what happens.
You can listen to the staff putting patients in the hallway and you see all walks of life coming in the doors. We all know this is not unique in the US with public hospitals. The movie opens this week in New York and in the Los Angeles area before being released throughout. These hospitals are the safety net and last resort so again what happens when they go away and are closed due to budget costs and money? The movie will also be shown next year on PBS. BD
The crowded emergency room of Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif., is the setting of Peter Nicks’s wrenching documentary “The Waiting Room.” Shot in 2010 over five months, the film, which has no narrator, titles, statistical analysis or overt editorializing, observes a composite day there during which nearly 250 patients — most of them uninsured — pour in.
Many find themselves stalled for hours at this public hospital, where patients are told to take numbers and wait to be called. Their waiting time increases if there is an influx of trauma patients, who are given priority. If the system seems heartless, it is the best that can be done with limited resources by a caring staff that does an impressive job of holding chaos at bay.
The film augments a dispassionate, cinéma vérité style with occasional voice-overs of patients and hospital staff members, most of them unidentified until the final credits. One doctor describes Highland Hospital as “an institution of last resort for so many people.”
A student with testicular cancer seeks help after being rejected by a private hospital, which at the last minute canceled his scheduled operation because he lacked insurance. An older recurrent visitor, who abuses multiple substances, faces homelessness if the exasperated pastor who has looked after him refuses to take responsibility for his release. Occupying another badly needed bed, he will remain in the hospital until he has a place to go.
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