FAIRFIELD — “The Waiting Room,” a documentary film about 24 hours at the emergency room at Oakland’s Highland Hospital, has been named to several top-10 lists for 2012.
Solano County residents can find out what the buzz is about Thursday when Touro University hosts a screening of the film, which is a benefit for the school’s student-run free clinic in Vallejo.
Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Peter Nicks served as director, producer and cinematographer on the film. The idea to film at the hospital was inspired by Nicks’ wife, who is a speech pathologist at Highland. She would tell him stories from her job. He was struck by hearing stories of uninsured people.
“There’s a lot of storytelling there,” Nicks said. “We were mostly interested in people on a human level, and the staff trying to provide care without enough resources.”
Nicks said he had a view of the hospital before he even picked up a camera. He noticed the diversity of those utilizing the emergency room services. Through observation he said he learned we have an empathy problem.
“We are not able to see each other as the same,” he said. “We try to distance ourselves. Spending time there, we could tell these stories and make a connection.”
He said he hopes viewers will come to realize that while the health care system may be broken, people are not.
“There are some amazing caregivers there,” he said of the staff at Highland Hospital. While the film focuses on just one location, Nicks said Highland Hospital is not unique and there are others just like it all over the country.
On a personal level, Nicks said making the film made him realize that listening is an important part of the health care process. He spoke of one nurse at the hospital who treats everyone the same, regardless of whether they have private insurance or public health care.
“The Waiting Room” has partnered with free clinics around the country in the past. And it is scheduled to show up in many teaching hospitals.
But there’s still plenty on Nicks’ plate. There’s no money for him to hire a staff. And, now with the film finished, he’s finding it harder to raise money for wider distribution.
“There’s a pretty long life to the film,” he said. “It has timeless elements that will make it relevant for many years,” Nicks said.
Nicks will attend the Vallejo screening. After, he will lead a panel discussion with Touro University California dean, Dr. Gregg Lund.
More details on the film can be found at www.whatruwaitingfor.com/film.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.