The Waiting Room Experience

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Last Wednesday, January 30, two of my friends and I attended a showing of a documentary called “The Waiting Room” which depicted an Emergency Room in Oakland and a few things really stood out to me. One was the amount of returning patients taking up beds because lack of a long term care or facilities. One guy was back 12 times in a matter of months due to a substance addiction, and after the last incident even his pastor didn’t want him to come back.

I thought that it was good of them to have included showing the story of somebody who didn’t make it. It added a level of realism that you don’t get from every documentary. The movie takes you through all stages from the point where the doctor and nurses tried to save him but his heartbeat flatlines and they call the time of death. Apparently the family wasn’t allowed to see the body because of legal concerns pending a crime investigation. They toe tag the faceless deceased and roll him into the dead body cabinet in the back. Not a happy story, but realistic.

At the end of the documentary there was no conclusion or neat wrap-up, but rather the sun went down and came up again as a new day and the visitors were new but the problems were the same. The documentary offered no answers or solutions but instead merely provided a look into what the waiting room environment is like, clearly outlining some major issues.

It also raises some serious moral questions like:

What do we do when we want to provide help to whoever needs it but only have limited resources and time? Who gets the bed?”

“Should we let people who don’t have the money for it receive surgery? Who picks up the bill?”

“Should the country put more money into the healthcare system? If so where should we invest and where is the money coming from?”

For taking place in a hospital, the film makers do a pretty good job of representing the waiting room’s natural environment. The few touches of humour also helped to alleviate a bit of the sadness and keep the tone lighter then it would have been otherwise.

Overall, I think that the movie portrayed its message clearly. The system is overloaded and there are caring staff out there who are doing everything they can to keep people moving through but they can only help so many and the rest will have to wait.

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