Film captures daily life inside hospital waiting room

November 12, 2010 7:52:06 PM PST
In a world where there is constant worry about keeping personal medical information private, a Bay Area team of filmmakers is going in the other direction. They got unprecedented access to Highland Hospital in Oakland, then uploaded some of their video to ABC7's uReport, powered by YouTube. When we saw it, we simply had to find out more about their project called "The Waiting Room."

Daily life at Highland Hospital, captured by a video crew with plans to make each patient's story matter. Some arrive in critical condition, while others because there is no place else to turn.

Documentary filmmaker Pete Nicks and his team spent the past five months in Highland's waiting room -- a public hospital that never turns anyone away.

"It's visually an incredibly diverse sight, and then you start to look and talk to people and you realize that it's a remarkable manifestation of our health care policy in America," says Nicks.

The idea is that as people wait for medical care, they have a chance to share what's on their minds.

The crew has shot 150 hours of video that will eventually become a documentary. But a lot of it is online now on a website called Whatruwaitingfor.com. A wide range of people talk about a wide range of experiences, from a young woman who refuses to identify the men who attacked her, to another young woman looking for her future.

The team is also hoping to put a video booth in the waiting room so people can record their stories even when no film crew is there.

It is all voluntary. Every patient and staff member who appears has given their consent.

"We have to work hard when we have a film crew coming into an environment where people do expect and demand privacy," says hospital CEO Wright Lassiter. "But at the same time, I think, America is saying we want to know more about what's going on in our very complex systems like our health care system."'

"It's been surprising how eager people are -- even in a moment of pain -- to share," says Nicks.

Lassiter knows there will be both good and bad comments about patient care, and he's ready to hear them. He has even shown some of the videos at staff meetings.

"It really helps, particularly those who aren't in the day to day trenches of providing health care," says Lassiter. "It helps sort of connect us back to why we're all here and what's the point of what we do."

We found out about this story from video uploaded to uReport on our website. Show us what you've got. Upload your photos or video anytime to uReport.abc7news.com or e-mail them to uReport@kgo-tv.com.

To see more "Waiting Room" video, visit Whatruwaitingfor.com

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney.


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