Friday, September 12, 2014

Code Black: Scary look into our broken healthcare system

The always lovely Miss Wendy and I stumbled onto an interesting film recently in our little corner of the world that was entertaining in a scary and informative sort of way.

Code Black isn't a summer blockbuster, features no caped crusaders, car chases, or scantily clad vixens; and the good guys -- a hearty and wholesome band of emergency room doctors-in-training --  definitely don't always win. After all, the movie is a documentary, not a fantasy.

The film moves along at warp speed, an adrenalin rush of activity focusing on the daily grind inside the emergency room at Los Angeles County Hospital. It's a bustling and happening place, as often as not laboring under a "Code Black," the designation offered up when waiting rooms and treatment bays are spilling over with patients.

It's been said of "C Booth", the hospital's legendary trauma bay, that more people have died and been saved there than any other square footage in the country; death hangs heavily in the air. But, thankfully, so does hope.

Given all the guts and gore splashed across the screen, it would seem likely that the dramatic tension of the film would have to do with the doctoring at the heart of the action. But, no, the documentary gains traction as the filmmakers explore the impact of our anemic economy on healthcare today and the growing bureaucracy that is slowing down the works.

As the needs of the community grow exponentially, one harassed administrator is forced to shutdown a wing of the emergency room for lack of operating funds and the loss of nurses to higher paying jobs at for-profit hospitals.

Meanwhile, patients wait patiently for care while doctors are kept busy filling out paperwork -- requisition slips, medical records, privacy forms and such. It's all a little maddening. One frustrated resident, clearly upset by the misplaced priorities that rule her life, explains she often has only a few minutes to spend with patients, then must spend precious time documenting visits.

During breaks in the action, the soon-to-be physicians share their back stories, hopes and dreams, and worry about the future of medicine.

It would have been easy for the film's producers to take a political stand, weighing in on Obamacare, questioning the high-cost of care and insurance, wagging a metaphorical finger at the senseless and infuriating gridlock that's taken hold in Washington.

But to their credit, the production team steers clear of partisan politics and focuses their energy on examining the day-to-day problems that have become emblematic of a healthcare system in turmoil and the wannabe physicians struggling to hold onto their humanity and youthful idealism.

I'm thinking it's a battle worth paying attention to in a world just slightly out of whack -- and growing whackier by the day!