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The Cinema Becomes The Waiting Room



January 31st, 2013

This past Saturday I caught a screening of The Waiting Room at Winnipeg Film Group‘s Cinematheque. Being the fan of cinema that I am, I was pretty happy to finally be exposed to this gem of a cinema, which is celebrating its 30th year.


Now, I’m a fan of movies like this: the raw documentary where the camera is more of a fly on the wall and there’s no major plot and very little, if any, narration. Unfortunately, The Waiting Room failed to engage me. The movie is basically the trailer above, stretched and repeated for 81 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, this movie scores high on a lot of points. Director and cinematographer Peter Nicks provides a beautifully shot film. The employees of the Highland Hospital in Oakland, California were also very charismatic, particularly Certified Nurse Assistant Cynthia Y. Johnson and Resident Dr. Douglas White.

This screening was part of a journalism assignment for CreComm. I probably wouldn’t have seen this film on my own because listening to all these things that can be wrong with my body makes me uneasy, such as bone spurs, testicular cancer, and diabetes-induced death. Hollywood effects are one thing, real trauma is another. There was a powerful scene where they show a shot man who is rushed to the ER and dies, then they cut to blood all over the floor, and then they takes us with the crew putting the body in the fridge. I looked away when they showed the puddles of blood on the floor.

When my grandma had a fatal aneurism in 2001, she was rushed from Kenora to Health Sciences Centre while in a coma. She was kept in a room in intensive care but was eventually moved to a room in the Children’s Hospital because of overcrowding in the main hospital.

A bulletin summarizing the 2010 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey by Health Council Canada found 42% of Canadians waited 2 hours or more in the ER compared to 29% in America. The situation gets much worse when you looked at the wait of four weeks or more for a specialist: 43% of Canadians compared to America’s 10%. Under Steven Harper’s Conservatives, rules preventing patients in Canada from being able to pay private clinics for priority treatment have been relaxed, but this doesn’t do anything to help the everyday user of the system. I feel like health care is something that we’re all in together. If I have to wait 2 hours to see my doctor when I have an appointment, just to be called in to wait by myself for another 15-30 minutes before my doctor comes in, shines a light in my ears and mouth and hands me a free, branded medicine sample, then everyone else can, too.

America’s problems statistically seem less grim than Canada’s when it comes to wait times, but America is also spending much more: 17.6% of their GDP compared to 11.4% for us, though this is almost 2% higher than most countries surveyed, according to OECD Health Data 2012 report.

The Waiting Room shows us largely what we already know: there is a huge strain on the healthcare system in North America. There are issues with people who abuse themselves and who abuse the system that are occupying beds and bumping others down the queue, taxing them hours. The cinema becomes the waiting room because we are transported into this place by the movie, however, like being in an actual waiting room, you’re get kind of bored.

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