The film was shot over five months in 2010. There is no narrator, titles, or statistical analysis. The film observes a composite day during which nearly 250 patients come through the emergency room, most of them uninsured.
Patients are told to take a number and wait to be called; most are waiting for hours at this public hospital. Trauma patients are given priority which increases the waiting time for all other patients in the waiting room. The caring staff does an impressive job of keeping things calm while using the limited resources available to them.
The film focuses on 10 patients in particular as they show this healthcare system that is reaching its breaking point. A young man with testicular cancer who was turned away by a private hospital because he didn’t have insurance. A man who is suffering from substance abuse, who is facing homelessness if his pastor refuses to look after him, occupying a much needed hospital bed because he has nowhere else to go. A carpenter who has bone spurs in his lower back and is being threatened with replacement at his job, where he has been for 30 years, unless he agrees to take a major pay cut; he is already struggling financially and facing foreclosure.
“The Waiting Room” is a heart wrenching documentary that shows you first hand the human suffering that a more organized, humane and equitable health system might help alleviate.