Code Black is a 2013 documentary that chronicles events at the Emergency Department of LA County Hospital, the busiest ED in America. We follow the lives of a team of resident doctors as they strive to care for all of the patients that flood their waiting room during “code black”—when the patients outweigh the resources of the ED. Code Black proved to be very successful, winning best documentary at the LA film festival. This film aims to expose the problems of America’s broken healthcare system and the hardships that county hospitals face, including lack of funds to staff adequately and the poor ER conditions for patients.
In this film, we are shown two versions of LA County Hospital, “Old County” and “New County”, which give dramatically different impressions of an emergency department. “Old Country” is a picture of doctors working together with one goal in mind—to save their patient’s life, no hesitation. In “New County”, the doctors are faced with many problems which this film seeks to uncover. We see them drowning in paperwork while there are hundreds of patients in their waiting room, who could have been there for close to 20 hours. The insufficient staffing, and inadequate funds to hire enough staff in the first place, greatly contributes to this problem as well. In addition, these doctors struggle to find intimacy in their relationships with their patients, meanwhile spending twice as much documenting it.
The prime audience for this film includes doctors, nurses, or any other healthcare worker that would be drawn to watch a medical documentary. As a nursing student, I chose to watch this documentary because I want to be informed about the industry that will eventually employ me. Since this film is available on Netflix, it can show up in viewers “cues” based on what they’ve previously watched, and therefore can gain viewers that way as well. The government is also a target audience for this film. Although government regulations for medical care were implemented to protect the patient, we are shown throughout the film howthey can actually prevent care. Resident Doctor Pomeranz states in the film, “The amount of forms that it takes to get a patient registered, taken care of, and discharged is upwards of 50 to 60… They’re trying to guarantee patient’s safety, but in doing so they’re killing the team and killing the relationship… It becomes a bucket of paperwork to save someone’s life, and it kills the passion of saving someone’s life”. Statements like these are aimed at the government in an attempt for the them to understand how patient care is being affected. One of the most taxing government regulations is HIPAA, which you can read more about here: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/index.html
Doctor Ryan McGarry wrote and created this film with the purpose to inform viewers of the inside struggles of emergency departments, specifically county hospitals, and to inspire change in doctors and hospitals in the United States. According to the film, county hospitals make up 2% of all U.S. hospitals, but provide 20% of uncompensated care. In addition, county hospitals train approximately 1 in 5 doctors. This film sheds light on the underfunding and lack of resources in country hospitals in order to spark change and bring forth awareness., After filming had wrapped, Los Angeles county allocated more money toward the hospital in order to hire 25 new nurses. Indeed, change is beginning to happen.
Code Black gives a pretty narrow perspective regarding the ins and outs of LA County emergency department, and healthcare overall. We primarily see through the lens of the ED resident doctors, such as writer and director McGarry who stars in this film himself, alongside his team of resident doctors. It makes sense that we would hear about the nitty gritty from those who are doing the nitty gritty. We also hear from attending physicians at LA County and patients, who testify their similar frustrations regarding the “system”. This is what leads me to believe that this film is attempting to reach the government.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with Code Black and highly recommend this film for those whom it interests. I would give this film 4 nachos. As a prospective nurse, I felt that this documentary gave me good insight into the healthcare world from the perspective of healthcare providers themselves. I appreciate that the voices of those who are saving lives are being heard.
Watch the movie trailer here: