Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Waiting Room Documentary

Recently I had the pleasure of watching the documentary The Waiting Room with a small group of classmates at Cinematheque in the Exchange District. The film screening was the first part of an assignment for my Journalism class. This blog post expressing my feelings after having seen the film is the second part.

I went into the theatre expecting to see a low budget, amateurish documentary made by young film students trying to get a passing grade on their final assignment.

I did not expect to see a well made movie that would bring me to tears. No, I didn't expect tears at all.

The documentary takes place in a waiting room at a public hospital in California and portrays how the waiting room operates over the course of 24 hours. During that time, the film crew follows various people and uncovers their stories as they wait to see a doctor, get diagnosed, and eventually get discharged, whether they want to or not.

The Waiting Room, much like the movie Sicko, tries to enlighten the audience on the American health care system and how it treats its low-income patients. Crowded, loud, and teaming with sickness, the waiting room portrayed in the documentary appears to be a dreadful place for a seriously ill person in need of medical attention.

In the movie many of the individuals being recorded by the cameras had a similar story. They didn't have a lot of money, didn't have health insurance, and required expensive treatments like surgery and medication. Looking for a way to receive treatment despite their lack of money, these individuals sought refuge in a public hospital and its over-populated waiting room.

Watching movies and documentaries like this always reminds me of how fortunate I am to live in Canada. Here's a quote from Health Canada's website that explains the process in the most simplest terms.

"Universal coverage for medically necessary health care services provided on the basis of need, rather than the ability to pay." [source]

A big difference from America's current system which treats patients based on the amount of money they can spend to get themselves whole again.

The film did a really good job of following patients and capturing their entire journey from start to finish. I am happy that I was able to leave the theatre satisfied with the stories I had witnessed rather than frustrated by any unexplained endings. 

My only criticisms of the film would be its slow pace and lack of information at the beginning of the movie. The information describing where the movie takes place is not revealed until the very end before the credits and I believe my understanding of the activities in the film would have been better had I known that from the start.

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