There's a 20-by-25-foot space in downtown Los Angeles where scores of lives have been lost, but where many lives have also been saved. This space — the legendary trauma bay at L.A. County Hospital — is called C-Booth.
A young doctor gives us an inside view of the trauma and drama that unfolds there in the new film "Code Black."
"Code Black" recently won best documentary at the L.A. Film Festival. Filmmaker and emergency doctor Ryan McGarry joins the show to talk about the film.
On why he chose, while in residency training, to make “Code Black”:
"I don’t recommend the all-consumptive nature of both filmmaking, directing of course, and then residency training at probably the toughest place to be an ER doctor in the country. That’s not a great idea, but I think it was hard to deny the ingredients of a good film as soon as I arrived."
"When I walked into USC-L.A. medical center for the first time, I saw this place called C-Booth and C-Booth is not very large, it’s about 12-feet long; it’s widescreen in nature; and in that space, you have six beds, and all of the drama, all of the human condition you could possibly imagine is flying in and out of that space almost every other minute at a pace and intensity I’d never seen before."
On the drama that unfolds in C-Booth:
“At first glance…it looks like true chaos, and yet it’s a real testament to teamwork in medicine and what intensity does to a team. You rely on every hand in that room to get the job done.
“It’s a real team effort. If you can’t run that team, you’re going to have a hard time navigating that space, especially as intense as it was there. I found myself, as a filmmaker, starting to ask the question, ‘what is the value of intensity?’ Sure, your heart rate is pounding, this place is making your palms sweat…why does that matter?
“I think what I found is it matters because it makes everything clear. I think that the benefit of that environment over in C-Booth and continuing at L.A. County is that you work so hard and it’s so intense, that decisions are very clear; you know what is priority, you know what you have to do and what you don’t have to do.”
On when a patient is lost in C-Booth:
“We as students come into that environment expecting a moment, a ceremony. ‘Someone died, let’s all pause and recognize that,’ and you know it doesn’t happen. There’s a pace there that has to continue. If you’re going to be a good physician, a good nurse, you know, there’s still people that need you there. There isn’t time to really have that moment.”
On the importance of L.A. County Hospital:
“Here we are post-Obamacare, and yes, more people are getting access, more people are getting health insurance cards, but those cards are not necessarily premium cards. They are often not seen as profitable enough. Which in some ways could encapsulate the entire American health care system: that you, as a person, may not be seen as profitable enough. And that’s scary.
“More access is good, but we still have problems and we still need to value our public health institutions because, really, the buck stops there; [At L.A. County], we say you’re not profitable or profitable enough, you’re just human, and that’s why we’re here.”
On the continued challenges healthcare practitioners face:
“It’s common…to compare the United States to other countries. And you hear, well, ‘Cuba, for example, has better health care than us.’ Well, it’s maybe not that they have better healthcare but, what they have done in Cuba and other countries, is they have effectively defined, as a society, what the lowest level of health care is going to be. They’ve said, ‘Okay. It’s not none.’ And in the United States, it’s still technically none. We still are okay with that and I think that’s a problem.”
“When I think about the U.S., I think we have the best and worst healthcare in the world in one spot. And which of those you get largely depends on what you can afford. Can we possibly fix that? I don’t know.”