If you grew up in the flats of Oakland, you know that if someone gets shot, you take them to Highland Hospital. Though our murder rate is through the roof every year, Highland’s amazing trauma unit has saved many of our friends and community members. There are a wealth of others who utilize Highland too of course. It is what is known as a “safety net hospital,” which means that many without healthcare coverage converge on the ER’s waiting room for everything from fevers to respiratory illnesses to gun shot wounds.
The Waiting Room, a new documentary directed by Peter Nicks, explores Highland Hospital’s daily struggle to treat the Bay Area’s uninsured. It also humanizes Highland’s medical professionals and Oaklanders in their most trying hours. You see the frustration, the fear, the humor and the love that patients wear on our sleeves all at the same time. Recalling times that I’ve waited in ER waiting rooms, I remember being more miserable than social, but damnit if the spirit of this city doesn’t shine in this documentary. We follow patients as they wait hours for service, as they are treated, and then as they try to figure out how they’ll pay for it. We also follow nurses and doctors as they work around the clock to serve an ailing clientele as diverse in their medical problems as they are their ages and ethnicities.
It’s a revealing look at our broken healthcare system, the plight of the uninsured working class, and the resilience of struggling people of all stripes. The last showing at Grand Lake Theater will be tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:20pm. Oaklandish will have free tickets to the show until they run out, so swing by 1440 Broadway ASAP! If you miss it, the amazing documentary is also showing at Berkeley’s Shattuck Cinemas.
In addition to the movie, you can check out many poignant shorts that comprise the filmmakers’ storytelling project. The shorts are organized by theme, exploring the courage, faith, fear, gratitude and other various emotions experienced by the patients in Highland Hospital’s Emergency Room. You can watch them all HERE, but we’ve shared a couple of our favorites below.