Healthcare has been in the news cycle and public conscience for decades as the political debate over how to handle Healthcare in the US rages on. Whether or not Universal healthcare in is the future for the United States the current status quo remains clear, millions of people are simply not getting the coverage necessary for their chronic aliments. The patients and staff at Highland Hospital in Oakland, CA all serve as frontline witnesses to this national debate.
The new documentary The Waiting Room observes a daily shift in the goings-on in the dreaded waiting room of the busy and understaffed hospital. Patients come in with every injury, illness and disease imaginable. These people need medical attention and consulting ASAP; however, the overbearing issue is that Highland is the last resort for these people, as they have no medical coverage in their insurance. Most of the people sent there, are in deep poverty and debt there are no other options available for them.
Built upon the vignettes and asides from the staff and patients at the Hospital the Film builds an overarching story of the tragic untold stories of the Healthcare system. Putting faces to the masses uninsured, overwhelmed and gambling with their lives every time they have to go to a Doctor. The film also humanizes the hospital workers as they find themselves constantly trying to get to everyone in the seemingly never-ending crowds in the waiting room.
While the film is unflinching, what the documentary does best is what it leaves out; the politics. Separating the rhetoric out of the frames, leaving the audience to form opinions on their own is a true positive. The staff are not bemoaning or defaming the system, they are simply doing the absolute best job they can with what is given to them, no complaints. They handle the numerous issues with a unparalleled tender care and compassion. These are people not just punching in and out of the daily grind, instead having an sense of duty to see as many people as possible in a given day.
My own Mother has worked in healthcare as a Registered Nurse for the majority of her adult life and is now a Nurse Practitioner; liaising between patients and doctors, dealing hands-on with most of the medical problems depicted in the film. The difference here is that she works in Massachusetts, the state with arguably the best Healthcare system in the country. She and her co-workers have access to state-of-the-art equipment, a well-stocked staff and appropriate inventory. She can attest that without even one of these three things her job would be astronomically more difficult, even damn near impossible.
Like the Oakland staff depicted here, my Mother is and will always be dedicated to helping the sick and injured recover if at all possible. Giving these people the means to do this task, with the utmost resolve, should be of the highest priority. Getting their patients the proper medical coverage, in order to send them to less overwhelmed hospitals, that would be necessary to treat them properly is one way. The Waiting Room is a real-look into the struggle for what should be an inalienable right; Health.