Film Review : The Waiting Room (2012)

IMDB Score – 6.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 100%
Netflix Instant Watch

Directed By – Peter Nicks

Go behind the doors of an American public hospital struggling to care for a community of largely uninsured patients.

I’ve been on a bit of a documentary binge recently. Luckily Netflix has had a great couple weeks recently in which they have made some great documentaries available on Instant Watch, including this one which has only been getting a smallish buzz. I remember watching the hit television show “ER” when I was a kid and being captivated by what takes place in an emergency room. While the show was a wonderful drama, what really happens in an emergency room couldn’t really be further from what happens in the show. Having family members that are routinely going to the hospital for various reasons, I have only just scratched the surface on what it takes to run a successful hospital. Peter Nicks directs a film that tries to show an unbiased light on the health care system in our country.

This isn’t a talking heads film. What is essentially being shown is a raw look on a typical night at Highland Hospital located in Oakland, California. The film describes that in a period of 24 hours, the emergency room had a total of 241 patients walk through the doors, most of whom did not have health insurance. The severity of the illnesses and symptoms ranges from serious tumors, throat conditions, gunshots, and chronic pain, but also incorporates people trying to get a little Tylenol. Throughout the entire film, the staff at Highland never rests as they are trying to figure out which patients need attention more than others, where they can put them, and whether or not the hospital is going to be getting paid. That last part is important. Hospitals need money to run efficiently but not everybody can pay the crazy amounts of money that is required to see a doctor for serious conditions. It’s a double edged sword that really nobody is comfortable with but is a reality facing our nation. Canada has free healthcare but the waits are long. America requires insurance to avoid near impossible bills…and the waits are long. Some people interviewed in the film waited hours to be seen. Some of their conditions worsened during the wait. These are the problems facing our country and a film like this is a great way to understand what we are trying to fix.

Political comments aside, the film was very engaging. As I said before, the film is presented in a raw fashion, going from patient to patient and experiencing their diagnosis right along side them. Some patients are angry, some are sad, some just want to go home, and the camera pays them justice by telling the truth on what it is like going to the Hospital when you’re sick. The fact that it’s in such a polarizing area such as Oakland only helps people realize what inner city hospitals are like.

It’s a short watch and loads better than anything you’re likely to find on any network television shows. I hope it gets more attention.


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