The following post was featured in Sunday's online edition of The New York Times. The report comes from Emmy Award-winning documentary Peter Nicks whose latest film The Waiting Room goes behind the doors of an American public hospital struggling to care for a community of largely uninsured patients. The film will air next season on PBS's Independent Lens.
This Op-Doc video, adapted from my feature-length documentary The Waiting Room,presents a composite day in the life of patients at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif. — edited from five months of filming in 2010.The Waiting Room developed from stories my wife, a speech pathologist at Highland Hospital, told me about the struggles and resilience of her patient population. And a few years ago, as the contentious vote for health care reform got louder, it occurred to me that the people who were not participating in the debate were the very people we were fighting over: those stuck in waiting rooms at underfunded public hospitals all over the country.
How would the patients in the waiting room at Highland Hospital respond to President George W. Bush’s statement, echoed by many others, that we already have universal health care in this country because, by law, nobody can be turned away from an emergency room for lack of ability to pay? By following the caregivers and patients as they passed through the waiting room, we felt we could shed some light on the challenges of delivering primary health care in an environment designed for emergency medicine.
What we found was that the uninsured were more likely to be hospitalized for avoidable conditions because there is virtually no continuity of care; no regular doctor to get a detailed medical history and then a follow-up visit to make sure the prescribed treatment is working. And because the wait times are so long — both in the emergency department and to see a doctor in the clinics — simple conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes can escalate to severe life-threatening emergencies like strokes or kidney failure. These true emergencies end up back in the emergency department but at a much higher personal and financial cost. “The Waiting Room” is a story and a symbol of our national community and how our common vulnerability to illness binds us together as humans.
From our blog
January 22, 2019
Today we are excited to announce that Hale County This Morning, This Evening and ITVS Open Call-funded Minding the Gap have been nominated for Best Documentary Feature for the 91st Oscars. The Oscars will be presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on February 24th. Minding the Gap, directed by first-time filmmaker Bing Liu, and Hale…
January 17, 2019
Going home can be challenging in many circumstances, but returning home to capture a nearby community in turmoil can add a whole new layer of complexity. Rita Baghdadi and Jeremiah Hammerling, directors of ITVS Open Call funded My Country No More, described those challenges and share some insight into capturing the rural community of Trenton, North…
December 11, 2018
It is with sadness that we say goodbye to filmmaker and educator Bill Siegel. Bill first became a part of the ITVS family with his award-winning film The Weather Underground, which he co-directed with Sam Green. It tells the story of former University of Chicago students who showed their outrage at the Vietnam War and racism in America by waging a low-level…