The term "code black" is the phrase used by physicians to describe a full emergency room. They could safely use the term to describe the crowded "Code Black" premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Tuesday night.
The film depicts the 2008 class of interns entering Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. The group is shown thrilling at all the action and direct patient interaction of C-booth, a 20-by-25-foot emergency room in which the most critical patients are treated. Soon, though, the old hospital is closed (it is not earthquake-safe), a new one opens and, along with it, a new style of practicing medicine — one with more computers and hours spent documenting their medical decisions in case of future lawsuits.
"We have to cover our ass for that, and that is a very serious and fearful motivator for us,” said Ryan McGarry, the film’s director and a medical intern at the hospital.
As doctors plow through paperwork, the emergency room waiting area is shown filling with people who can wait up to 18 hours before receiving care. The film depicts the medical team's frustration at the delays the system causes and takes a broader pass at the state of healthcare in America.
McGarry said the film is not intended to be political but more a primer for people forming opinions on healthcare funding and Obamacare. He suggested that anyone come visit the waiting room of the ER before deciding where he or she stands on universal healthcare.
“When it comes to healthcare, do we care about our neighbor?” McGarry asked his audience following the screening. “And that’s a really polarizing question.”
Edward Newton, a doctor from County-USC, and a Canadian, joked that all “civilized countries” offer universal healthcare. Newton said when preventative measures such as vaccinations are not taken, as is often the case in Los Angeles County, outbreaks of disease are more common. The result is more expensive than the prevention would have been.
The film closes on a shot of the old County-USC building. One of the placards on it calls it a “civic cathedral.” It appears as almost a plea from the doctors to return to an older, more humanitarian form of medical care.
The Los Angeles Film Festival will screen "Code Black" at 7:10 p.m. Friday and at 4:50 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
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