Burning Out

Burning Out

Jérôme le Maire | 
Belgium / France / Switzerland |
 2016 | 
85 minutes


For two years, Belgian director Jérôme le Maire followed the members of a surgical unit at one of Paris’ biggest hospitals. The result is gripping and infuriating, tragic and ridiculous. It’s like ER meets The Office, as directed by D. A. Pennebaker.

The film is a hospital soap opera in the ER vein — with the requisite surgeries, and life-saving heroics, as well as some major drama. As tensions rise due to limited resources, staff members are pushed to the breaking point, and take out their frustrations on one another. In one particularly poignant scene, a black nurse simply refuses to work with one surgeon whose arrogance and anger betray his racism.

The dramatic scenes of medical action are intercut, The Office- style, with farcical and interminable management meetings where the representatives of front line workers try and impress upon administrators the need for radical changes — only to be pawned off on outside consultants whose audit shows just how much harder everyone could be working if they introduced “efficiencies.” You don’t need to be a health care worker to recognize this particular species of MBA ‘right- sizer.’ Anyone who has the Kafkaesque experience of deciphering the jargon of management consultants only to find it means layoffs and cuts will find Burning Out all too familiar.

Le Maire’s access is total, and the frank depiction of the job and its impact on the people doing it is unblinking. But for all its observational specificity, the story is sadly not unique. Bookending the film with a beautiful aerial shot of Paris, le Maire reminds us that this is just one unit at one hospital in one overworked healthcare system in one affluent and enlightened country. Canada is also full of health care professionals in similar stages of burning out. -JC

Justice Forum Panelist

Ellen Balka

Ellen Balka is an Adjunct Professor at the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University and a Senior Research Scientist for Vancouver Coastal Health.

Throughout my career my research focus has been human aspects of technological change, including technology assessment. Since the late 1990s, my research has been concerned with all aspects of health sector computerization, including the design and implementation of information technology in the health sector, assessment of health sector technology and governance of health sector technologies, including issues related to patient safety. My work has also been concerned with the challenges that front line workers experience in their workplaces, which I have examined through observationally based approaches such as ethnography and Francophone ergonomics.

Justice Forum Panelist

Chad A. Kim Sing

Dr. Kim Sing is a practicing Emergency Physician and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Dr. Kim Sing served as the VGH section of EM member of the Doctors of BC and as the head of the Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) Emergency Physicians Association from 2012-2013. Since 2014 he has enjoyed the responsibilities and challenges as the Department Head and Medical Director for Emergency Medicine, Vancouver Acute Community of Care of Vancouver Coastal Health, which includes VGH, UBCH, and GF. He has appeared in Knowledge Network's Emergency Room: Life + Death at VGH