Dramatic Documentary Reports On Challenges Faced In Oakland California Emergency Room
A revealing and stunning immersion documentary in the PBS series Independent Lens focuses on the ER waiting room at Oakland California’s Highland Hospital. This safety-net health care facility is the only place available for the uninsured people who pour through the doors and wait hours, sometimes days to be seen, only to be bumped by an ambulance case that is considered even more urgent than their own needs.
Simply and appropriately titled The Waiting Room, the documentary follows dedicated professionals as they struggle to care for a relentless avalanche of suffering individuals. The film’s featured patients include:
- A young child whose frantic father lost his job a year ago. His need to see his child treated overrides his pride as he tries to get her cared for in the ER.
- A young man who has been diagnosed with testicular cancer that needs immediate treatment is accompanied by his caring girlfriend who desperately wants him to get help. He has no other hope for potential treatment than this ER.
- A carpet layer who asks for pain medication for his severe back pain just so he can continue to return to work day after day to support his family.
The outstanding emergency room staff of besieged caregivers features:
- Certified Nurse Assistant Cynthia Y. Johnson, who is unforgettable as she triages the patients and manages the entire waiting room, putting suffering patients at ease with a combination of skill, humor and firmness when needed.
- Dr. Douglas White whose calm determination to help those in need powers him through grueling days all the while knowing that the next day – and each day going forward – will simply bring more of the same. Many of the patients, such as diabetics with no medication, are continual repeat cases. The preciousness of human life never escapes White as he tries to describe, on a one-size fits all form, the degree of illness a patient is suffering in such a way that the patient doesn’t fall through the eligibility cracks in the system.
- Registered Nurse Liz Lynch is solid and unflappable as she juggles her multiple roles as ER administrator, patient advocate and caregiver while coping with the crush of sick and often rightfully frustrated patients who pack the waiting room.
The Waiting Room draws the viewer into an unprecedented glimpse at how patients, staff, and caregivers cope with disease, bureaucracy, frustration, hope, and hard choices during one typically hectic day.
The press release sent to me along with the preview DVD captures the essence of The Waiting Room in these words:
“The Waiting Room lays bare the struggle and determination of both a community and an institution functioning with limited resources and no road map…Through this story of one hospital and its multifaceted community, the film powerfully and poignantly illustrates the common vulnerability to illness that binds us together as humans.”
The Waiting Room is not just a film. Viewing it offers an experience that should affect nearly anyone regardless of his or her views on some aspects of existing health care in America. The film debuts Monday, October 21. Check your local Public Television listing for dates and times.
Note: For a glimpse into the world of Alzheimer’s through Independent Lens see You’re Looking at Me Like I Live Here and I Don’t on the PBS website.
PBS press release and provided DVD of “The Waiting Room”
PBS Independent Lens retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/