The Waiting Room

Not only do I still owe approximately $33,000 from last year’s emergency room treatment (including $1000 for the ambulance ride), I was misdiagnosed — possibly on purpose, to avoid surgery. Who knows? All I know is, life without health insurance is a very risky proposition, and that fact that Mitt Romney doesn’t even seem to know why it is tells me that he either has the worst memory in the world (you’d have to think he was at least aware of these problems when he was a governor working on on his health care plan) or that he simply doesn’t care about health care for the uninsured. Either way, it’s not very flattering. I wonder if he could at least be interested enough to watch this documentary:

Eric Morgan, in his 20s and planning to get married, arrives at Highland Hospital’s emergency room, shaken that he has been diagnosed with a testicular tumor that is likely cancer.

Surgeons at a private hospital have turned him away for lack of insurance but tell him it’s “urgent” he get care.

Demia Bruce — out of work for a year — anxiously waits in the same ER with his 5-year-old daughter, her face swollen and burning with fever.

Carl Connelly has overdosed on drugs and alcohol, and Davelo Lujuan can’t bear the pain of his spinal bone spurs. They, too, wait.

A provocative new documentary, “The Waiting Room,” is a snapshot of Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif., one of the nation’s busiest safety-net hospitals, which is stretched to the limit with 241 patients a day, mostly uninsured, who need medical care they can’t afford.

The film, directed by Peter Nicks and getting Oscar buzz, opens at the IFC Center in New York City on Wednesday, Sept. 26 and in the greater Los Angeles area at Laemmle Theaters in Santa Monica, Pasadena and Claremont on Friday, Sept. 28, before showing around the country. “The Waiting Room” will also be aired by PBS in 2013.

Nicks follows 24 hours in the lives of artists, small business owners, factory workers and unemployed parents who have been hit hard by the economy — and hit harder still by a healthcare system that has left them out.

“Bring your breakfast, lunch and dinner — everything honey,” an African-American patient who has been waiting for days to see a doctor, tells a new arrival.

They take a number and they wait, sometimes coming back two or three days in a row. It might be months before they can get a doctor’s appointment. With only one operating room, the most urgent cases go first and the rest wait. A man with a survivable gunshot wound has waited two days to be seen.

“It is the place of last resort,” said Nicks, 44, whose wife is a speech therapist at Highland Hospital and came home with stories of patients’ troubled lives.

4 thoughts on “The Waiting Room

  1. Romney wants to be the president of the United States because he’s bored. He says what his advisors tell him to say and thinks what they tell him to think. In this election cycle the Republicans want to destroy all collectivist programs. Social Security, Medicare, ObamaCare, public schools, public prisons, a progressive tax system, food stamps, and so forth. Romney is the Free Market guy trying to sell Capitalism to a dumbed down public for his plutocratic(1%) pals in the autarchy. It ain’t working.

  2. Oooh! Snap! I luvvvv Prag Realist’s suggestion!!! CC to Ann. And you local newspaper!

    BTW, at my closest “acute care” medical center, aka hospital, the ER is now divided into three sections: Emergency Care, Urgent Care, and the last, where my friend with the stroke was taken with each of his heart issues, Most Urgent Care. It seems to work well to allow those most trained in illnesses and accidents which need the fastest care to get to those patients quickly.

    I don’t know how lack of insurance affects any of the intake procedures, but the Most Urgents get taken from the ambulance directly to third area, or, if driving in, get there ASAP after the reason is acertained. Info is taken from the person with the patient, or taken later if the patient drove himself to the ER, thinking it wasn’t all that serious. (I would tend to fall into that latter group, as I have difficulty recognizing the seriousness of my health problems, such as being burned over 40% of my body and driving myself to the ER…. Hey, I was able to walk and drive, so….Plus, I was terrified of the cost of an ambulance ride.)

  3. We’re a Third World country. No question about it anymore.

    My own small intro to this was over ten years ago when I had an eye emergency. I lived in the boonies, the local emergency room told my partner to drive me over to Big Hospital without stopping for gas on the way.

    I get there with an eye the size of a lemon, woozy from agony, and … nothing. The waiting room is littered with patient people (in both senses of “patient”), no receptionist, no nothing.


    Turns out the receptionist was one of the people talking to one of the would-be patients. She’s in no hurry at all.

    More bogglement.

    It took two obstreperous white folks, one of them healthy and big enough and mad enough to lift an ox, both with Ph.Ds and insurance, about half an hour to get to the triage nurse. (At which point I was whisked off to the specialist.)

    The last I saw of my comrades-in-waiting they hadn’t moved and there was no sign they ever would. The “best health care system in the world.” I still can’t believe that whole experience even though I was there.

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