Try seeing a documentary at Cinematheque

**As an assignment for school, we went to Cinematheque to watch The Waiting Room – a documentary about the American healthcare system at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California. This is my assignment.**

I’ve been in hospitals. My mom is a nurse at St. Boniface General Hospital, my grandma was sick and remained in hospital for a long while, my pop was in a nursing home, and my baba lives in an assisted care home. I’ve waited in ERs because I was sick and because I’d rolled my ankle. I’ve been in those waiting rooms.

I’ve seen ambulances bring in patients on stretchers with blood dripping off their bodies, I’ve seen paramedics pump chests and doctors shock people back to life.

The images and content in this film did not come as surprises to me.

The Government of Manitoba tells us, “Sometimes waiting is part of your health care. Your provider may want to wait to see if your condition improves with time or to determine if a different kind of test or treatment might be best for you. Sometimes you have to wait to become as healthy as you can be before having a surgery or test. The healthier you are before you have a treatment, the more likely you will be healthy after a treatment.
In other cases, waiting for your treatment could be caused by a combination of factors, such as increased demand for health care services, limited health care resources (such as specialists and specialized machines), and inefficient use of existing resources. Manitoba Health is working with its partners to reduce wait times.”

This makes sense to me.

I understand that there will almost always be someone sicker than me, unless I’m the one coming in on the stretcher.

The film’s website has a tagline; 24 hours, 241 patients, one stretched ER.

I don’t feel there was anything “shocking, memorable, haunting” about this film – as described in the critics’ comments in the trailer. A day in life, maybe, but it’s a day in the life of any American hospital – has been and will be until they change their system.

Americans have to pay for their health insurance. Those who can afford premiums belong to private hospitals, and those who cannot wait, sometimes seemingly endlessly in ERs and triage bays to be seen in a public hospital. They have to prove they’re making money and that they have jobs before they can apply for insurance.

A difference between the systems is Canadians who have coverage, are covered. Americans have bills and stress over every flu, broken bone, doctor’s appointment and surgery.

We have the Canadian Health Act, pay for our health care in taxes and have access to programs like Manitoba Blue Cross that offer additional health coverage to Canadian citizens.

Our system isn’t perfect either. A survey released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information reported that in 2012 one in 10 Canadians wait longer than eight hours and the average ER visit if four hours long.

The Government of Manitoba has a plan to reduce wait times in its hospitals.
“A key feature of the strategy is investing in change, by working with partners to transform the way wait lists are managed and coordinated. Traditionally, wait lists and wait time information have been managed by individual physicians and facilities in isolation from other parts of the system. This is not the best way to provide quality care, nor is it the most efficient use of your health care dollar.
Together, we are moving toward a health care system that is more patient-focused, more transparent and more accountable. This is probably the most important action being taken to reduce wait times.”

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authorityat all levels and in every hospital/ facility and program – is committed to improving the quality of care patients receive by continuing to find ways to better manage wait lists and reduce wait times through improved processes and innovations.

As a documentary, the film told many individual stories without leaving the hospital. There was a range of emotions from real people in the hospital; nurses, doctors, patients and techs. The sounds (crying, laughter, yelling) and conversations of the people in the hospital made it seem like the viewers were in the hospital with them.

The documentary made me wonder why people wait so long to be seen, why there aren’t enough doctors and why the young man couldn’t finish his treatment at the private hospital if that’s where it started. These questions have been asked before. This documentary didn’t provide a lot of new information, so much as it reminded people to think of those questions, and be concerned about not knowing the answers in an objective manner. I don’t feel that any blame was specifically placed on any one person or organization.

The emotions were captured beautifully. Cynthia Y. Johnson, a nurse, reminded me of the positive, friendly women my mom works with who truly love their jobs. Drs. Douglas White, Matthew Rehrer and Amandeep Singh were sympathetic to their patient’s needs. They listened to their stories in a calm, collected manner and cared that they get their treatment.

The choice to show Demia Bruce, a father, crying, nervous and worrying about his daughter was a good one. His daughter was scared and didn’t like hospitals, and showing him go through all his emotions as the updates of his daughter’s infection came through were real, relatable, human emotions.

While there was a lot of footage of the patients talking about their situations, the visuals really helped explain the stories. The voice of Carl Connelly, a man who was coming off an extreme high wouldn’t have been as effective as the footage they chose showing that he’d done so. He was having a hard time breathing, completing sentences, and coming off the drugs.

I don’t distinctly remember any music. The sounds of the monitors, the squeaky wheels of the hospital beds, the velcro on the blood pressure bands and the father sniffling while he worried about his daughter all made sense in this film.


Something to try if documentaries are your thing – but don’t expect to be shocked and awed by the footage. Cinematheque was a cozy, small venue – I liked it!

-Enjoy the ride.


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