TV tonight: ‘The Waiting Room’ on PBS features hospital of last resort

An intimate, behind-the-scenes look at healthcare for the uninsured.

Photo: Facebook/The Waiting Room

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2013 — For the millions of Americans who still lack health insurance today, a visit to the emergency room of a public hospital is their only option for health care. Tonight at 10 p.m., PBS is airing the award-winning documentary “The Waiting Room,” a film that puts a face on the professionals and the patients who deal with this reality. 

Don’t make the mistake of dismissing “The Waiting Room” as just another left leaning PBS rant. There is no hidden political agenda or preachy narrator spouting alarming statistics. The only agenda of the documentary is to give the viewer a fly on the wall perspective of an average day in the emergency room of a public hospital. And what a view it is.

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“The Waiting Room” was filmed in the emergency room of the Highland Hospital in Oakland, California. In the course of an average day, the staff sees 250 patients, most of them uninsured. We watch as the patients navigate the intimidating bureaucracy of a health care system that has relegated them to the part of the statistical pie chart we would rather ignore.

The stereotypes we assign to the uninsured and the people who care for them fall to the wayside with each passing moment of this eye-opening film. The caregivers are not a bunch of heartless bureaucrats and the patients are not always illegal immigrants or gang bangers. What we see instead is a staff that never loses sight of their humanity as they care for those who are down on our luck for one reason or another.

“The Waiting Room” provides an unflinching look at the state of health care for the less fortunate in this country. It may not be the easiest thing to watch tonight, but it is definitely the most important.

Tonight’s viewing:

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All times are EDT:

8 p.m.

ABC: Dancing With the Stars: (Live) Eight remaining couples compete in the Switch-Up Challenge; Ariana Grande and Mika perform.

CBS: How I Met Your Mother: (New) Ted hits the dating jackpot when he gets to choose among three women as a companion for the wedding weekend, while Robin and Barney don’t see eye to eye with the minister, and Marshall discovers some interesting information about his traveling companion, Daphne.

FOX: Bones: (New) Brennan and Booth’s wedding day approaches, but details of a murder probe are kept from the bride so she can stay focused on her big day. Meanwhile, Brennan’s father, Max, arouses suspicion when he shows up with a duffel bag full of money.

NBC: The Voice: (New) The battle round continues. The advisers are Cher, Ed Sheeran, Miguel and Ryan Tedder.

CW: Hart of Dixie: (New) Zoe secretly practices medicine in BlueBell again, but then she learns of a problematic clause in her contract. Meanwhile, Lavon tries to lure a minor-league baseball team to town; and Lemon attempts to usurp the leader of the Belles.

8:25 p.m.

ESPN: Monday Night Football: (Live) Vikings at Giants: Minnesota (1-4) at New York Giants (0-6). New QB Josh Freeman steers the Vikings’ bid to snap a five-game Monday-night losing streak, which includes a loss in their last game vs. New York (2010). Adrian Peterson and Brandon Jacobs face weak run defenses.

8:30 p.m.

CBS: 2 Broke Girls: (New) Max and Caroline lose business to the new cronut trend (half croissant, half donut), so they come up with their own trend–cake fries.

9 p.m.

CBS: The Big Bang Theory: (Repeat) A letter written to the teenage Howard by his father, who had deserted the family years earlier, is uncovered in a closet, and the young man is unsure if he wants to read it. Meanwhile, Leonard and Penny host a cocktail party for grown-ups.

FOX: Sleepy Hollow: (Repeat) In the series premiere of this update of Washington Irving’s classic tale, Ichabod Crane wakes up in the 21st century but finds his 18th-century nemesis, the Headless Horseman, has also come along for the ride.

CW: Beauty and the Beast: (New) Cat and Vincent track a mysterious beast. Meanwhile, Tess confronts Gabe.

9:30 p.m.

CBS: Mom: (New) Christy makes a new friend who proves to be quite troubled. Elsewhere, Bonnie focuses on meeting someone else’s needs. Octavia Spencer guest stars.

10 p.m.

ABC: Castle: (New) A suspect (Joshua Gomez) in a grisly murder claims he has traveled back in time to prevent terrible events from unfolding.

CBS: Hostages: (New) Ellen makes a life-changing choice when she performs emergency surgery at home. Meanwhile, Duncan demands answers when Archer tells him that an innocent person in their plan has become a victim.

NBC: The Blacklist: (New) The hunt is on for an elusive courier who’s delivering a package worth millions to an Iranian spy. As she scrambles to stop the transaction, Liz gets swept up in a kidnapping scheme. Meanwhile, Ressler is forced to accept Liz’s importance to the team.

PBS: Independent Lens: (New) “The Waiting Room” looks inside the ER waiting room at Oakland’s Highland Hospital, a safety-net hospital that sees 250 people, most of whom do not have health insurance, in its ER every day. Among them: a child with strep throat.

Basic cable:

New episodes of:

Basketball Wives at 8 p.m. on VH1

WWE Monday Night Raw at 8 p.m. on USA

Fast ‘N Loud at 8 and 9 p.m. on DSC

Top Gear at 9 p.m. on BBC

Love It or List It at 9 p.m. on HGTV

CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story at 9 p.m. on VH1

The Real Housewives of Miami at 10 p.m. on BRAVO

Ancient Aliens at 10 p.m. on History Channel

Teen Mom 3 at 10 p.m. on MTV

House Hunters at 10 p.m. on HGTV

Dream School at 10 p.m. on SUND

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives at 10 p.m. on Food Channel

Hotel Impossible at 10 p.m. on Travel Channel

House Hunters International at 10:30 p.m. on HGTV

For movie lovers:

8 p.m.

Halloween on AMC

Lethal Weapon 3 on CINEMAX

The English Patient on FLIX

Grown Ups on FX

Full Metal Jacket on IFC

Boy on TCM

Autumn in New York on TMC

9 p.m.

Life According to Sam on HBO

This Means War on HBO

The Five-Year Engagement on MOMAX

Little Man on STARZ

Later tonight:

Made in America at 9:30 p.m. on SHO

Scary Movie 3 at 9:30 p.m. on ENC

Halloween II at 10 p.m. on AMC

Ted at 10 p.m. on CINEMAX

Knife in the Water at 10 p.m. on TCM

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen at 10 p.m. on TMC

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Lisa King

I was born and educated in Southwest Virginia, traveled with my job all over America in my twenties and early thirties then came back to the mountains to raise my daughter.

I’ve been employed as everything from a quality control technician in industrial construction, to a mail processing plant manager, to postmaster of a small town. I’ve been to forty nine of the fifty states, as well as many other countries. Traveling will always be a passion I indulge, and something I’ll call upon often in my writing. 

I come from a long line of story tellers, and will shamelessly exploit a family tree resplendent with colorful and unique characters, both past and present.

In short my perspective will reflect the pride and familiarity I have of my Appalachian heritage. My stories will be a reflection of the values I believe we hold dearest here, all embellished with a healthy dose of Southern Appalachian flare.


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