Black Resistance Screening: The Waiting Room

It’s 9:30pm and you’ve been waiting in your local public emergency room for 6 hours. You have yet to see a doctor and don’t know when you will actually be able to. I’ve certainly been there on many occasions. As a student and a diabetic with limit financial resources and no insurance, New York City’s Bellevue Hospital is where I can receive care and very low-cost medication (insulin for $2…unheard of!). And so have millions of Americans. In today’s economy, many find themselves uninsured and without a primary care provider. Because of this, ER doctors wind up treating anything from a common cold, to serious complications. Unfortunately this has been an all too familiar scenario for many in underserved communities of color, where a trip to the ER seems more feasible for immediate treatment, than the expense of continual preventative care (regular check-ups, medical prescriptions, and supplies).

The documentary The Waiting Room follows several patients at Highland Hospital’s overtaxed ER in Oakland, California, as they find themselves stalled for hours and told to take numbers and wait. If there’s an influx of trauma patients who naturally are given priority, then you can expect your wait time to increase. It is a glimpse at how one hospital deals with being a safety-net and last hope for a community, while fighting financial bureaucracy and a system that is not equipped to provide long-term care for nearly 90,000 patients per year and 250 every day. If this seems excessive, then it’s definitely a testament to this dedicated staff doing an impressive job providing the best care with a humane touch with limited resources, all the while holding chaos at bay…daily.

The Waiting Room explores the intricacies of supporting communities and health care institutions, in order to navigate an already complicated health care landscape scared by economic and political dysfunction. While politicians, pundits, and the media have been stuck in a never-ending political fight over the success and failure of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), The Waiting Room gives voice to the people who are most affected by either outcome, but have yet to be invited to the table to tell of their experience. The Waiting Room Storytelling Project serves as an extension to the documentary, with case studies presented through testimonies and community engagement that pits the human experience with the political and often moral issues that rarely get heard or addressed. One day the hope is the issue of healthcare for all will be a distant memory. Until then…”24 hours. 241 patients. One stretched ER.”

By Liz McMillan

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