For hard-edged documentary snap with the all-important local angle, it would be hard to beat this film by Peter Nicks. Told in a fly-on-the-wall cinema-verité style, the completely absorbing doc lets us observe what takes place on a regular day inside the emergency room reception area at Oakland's Highland Hospital: everyone from a nudnik trying to get a free Tylenol to teenage gunshot victims dying in the midst of triage. No insurance means limited access, and limited access means long, long waits, even for the hapless guy with testicular cancer or the little girl with infected tonsils, strep throat, and a very worried dad. The hospital is filled to the max, and by regulation no new patient can be admitted until someone leaves. There are enough doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and social workers to fill a dozen daytime dramas, and the star among them is the admitting nurse. Opines one doctor: "The ER is not the place to manage someone's overall health." Another bit of "dialogue" no screenwriter could hope to make up: "We keep people overnight, just as much for their social conditions as for their medical conditions." Recommended. (80 min.)
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