Who hasn’t waited hours to see a doctor at a walk-in clinic or emergency room?
I live in a small town that has one walk-in clinic only open on certain days at certain times. The next nearest clinic serves Boxgrove, a growing-by-the-minute community located in northeast Markham, Ontario; a bustling office that is efficient but very very busy. That said, where I’m from, it’s a very rare occurrence to walk in, register and see a doctor in 15 minutes.
The Waiting Room, a documentary by Peter Nicks showcases the daily comings and goings of an emergency room in Oakland, California. Most of the people highlighted in the film are those who are poor, mostly unemployed, and have no insurance to pay for treatment. It shows people in pain, people complaining about the wait, and some of them receiving treatment.
The good: I like slice-of-life docs, and this was…
The bad: While patients wait, so does the viewer…for something to happen!
The Healthcare system in the United States is not a foreign concept to me, but having to worry about paying the doctor at the end of a visit is something I have never had to worry about personally, being Canadian and living under a universal healthcare system. That in mind, having to wait hours to see a doctor is quite common where I am from, not to mention a patient’s lack of a family physician. Taking it from personal experience, it doesn’t matter how much money someone has. The similarities of having to wait for hours to see someone…that urgency to speak to someone that could help us feel better is familiar and palpable in a waiting room. But, as the saying goes, if it bleeds, it leads; If someone comes in behind me with a sucking head wound, they’ll be seen ahead of me. Guess I’ll be sitting on my bladder infection a little longer (and it’s as it should be.).
I must have had a larger expectation for The Waiting Room than what it gave me. The film was a slice of the daily happenings in the ER, but it was really just an overhead view. I didn’t feel I took anything away from it other than, yeah, ERs are busy, you’ll have to wait, and if you live in the States, you are on the hook for treatment. I knew this already. I wished at the end that the film went more into “it” somehow. “It”? Yes, meaning went more into ANYTHING. Claw back the curtain. Are there any secrets to tell? Cuts to funding? I noticed all the construction equipment going on outside – what’s that about? Or study the lives of the ER doctors – what have they dealt with working there? The film looks at the patients, but from a very top level “on the surface” perspective. Divorced father of three, unemployed for a year, brings daughter into ER for throat infection. I am sure there is a much larger story. The uninsured guy who had a mass in his testicles that needed surgery right away was interesting enough, but we never hear any more. Am I watching a documentary or a security camera with the sound turned off?
The Waiting Room reveals very little extra to the whole North American ER experience.