F.I.L.M. of the Week (July 30, 2015)

30 07 2015

Code BlackLeave your feelings about Obamacare at the door and enter with nothing but your humanity for “Code Black,” my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  This documentary takes one of the most hotly politicized issues of our time and makes it about people again.  Healthcare is a far too important topic to blindly accept a party line, director Ryan McGarry suggests, and we all ought to seriously consider what steps are really necessary to ensure the simplest way to preserve the doctor-patient relationship.

The film follows a class of ER doctors in America’s busiest facility, Los Angeles County Hospital.  And not only do they have the highest patient volume, but they also take on some of the toughest clients that get dismissed by private facilities – in particular, the mentally ill.  On top of it all, their operating budget gets determined by county officials who can easily choose to allocate less to the hospital (and usually do).

The residents all enter with a great sense of hope and integrity in their chosen career path, much of which gets slowly drained out of them over the course of a year.  They all speak eloquently of how they want to spend time with the sick, getting to know what causes their pain and quickly determining treatment.  But the reality, they come to find, is just mountains of paperwork to comply with crushing privacy regulations as well as defense against malpractice lawsuits.

Is this the ideal resting heart rate of America’s healthcare system?

“Code Black,” at the very least, hands the microphone over to the doctors and lets them describe the situation from the frontline.  No Beltway blustering allowed here, just trained professionals trying to live their calling and do their jobs in spite of all the obstacles placed in their way.  If what McGarry captured in his film represents even half the truth, then anyone who wants to become a doctor in this climate must be some percentage crazy.

Let’s just hope the population of crazies stays replenished for a while, lest we end up in the position of one of the rare patient interviewees in the film.  The 58-year-old attorney, who appears to have attained a relative amount of success, saw her business go up in flames and her insurance evaporate with it.  When we see her in the film, she waits for treatment at LA County with plenty of the urban poor.  McGarry asks her what she’s going to do next, and she can only reply, “I don’t know.”  The look of utter panic in her eyes ought to scare the living daylights out of everyone watching.  Thank goodness the doctors profiled in “Code Black” care.



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