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Dizzying Heights, and The Best Case for Single-Payer

Friday 13 April 2012

In Paraiso, a film about skyscraper window washers in downtown Chicago, we get to see how two regular guys carry out this dangerous work. I mean, cleaning windows fifty stories up in The Windy City? They did allow that when the weather is bad, they might now work, but from their obvious sense of pride in their work (“first you learn to clean, then you learn speed”), I imagine that’s really the exception.

Waiting Room was not a film I was eager to see (Paraiso drew me to this block of films). As it turns out, while it’s a little on the long side, by focusing on a few stories in a day-in-the-life of a major city emergency room, one gets a practical view of just how messed up the US medical system is. It’s not all GSWs (gun shot wounds) and major traumas in a typical ER shift; mostly, it’s uninsured people who have no where else to turn. The main thing they all have in common is that they have no insurance, nor the means to afford private health-care. This means that when there is a TV-style major trauma, say a 5-car pile up or a couple of GSWs, they have to delay or deny services to people who have been waiting 7, 10, 12 hours for things like a kid with a 103.4 fever or the guy who was in with a GSW two days ago, and is now having numbness traveling up and down his side. Not having a place for repeat drug abusers to go means that they will take up ER beds until they are ready to discharge, which might be many hours. And, if the ER is too busy even after keeping the waiting room full and lining up gurneys in the halls, they start diverting the major traumas–that means you, the one with medical insurance who was just in a wreck–to a hospital that’s farther away, or that has maybe not as good trauma facilities, because they’re just too jammed up to take any more that shift.

Waiting Room should be required viewing for all members of Congress, the Supreme Court, and members of the Executive Branch who have anything to do with healthcare or insurance policy, and anyone else who thinks healthcare is just fine the way it is. Paraiso is just a good film, and is definitely worth a watch.

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