COVID-19 and the Health Care System

Oregonians are concerned about shortages of beds, staff, and medical supplies for treating patients, and most think patients with COVID shouldn’t be given priority over those with other serious illnesses.

image: healthcare workers treating patient

From October 8-18, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including beliefs and attitudes toward COVID-19 and the health care system. The questions were intended to gather preliminary data to inform more in-depth research in the months ahead.

The online survey consisted of 1,403 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Demographic quotas and statistical weighting were used to ensure a representative sample. Based on a 95% confidence interval, this survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±1.6% to ±2.6%. Due to rounding, numbers may not add up to 100%.

Respondents were contacted by using professionally maintained online panels. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real-time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education.

This survey uses aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample sizes permit reliability.

The question numbers in this document correspond with the survey questionnaire and tabs, which can be downloaded at the bottom of this page (Q23-Q27).

Concerns About Beds, Staffing, and Supplies

Respondents were asked how concerned they are about hospitals serving their area of Oregon having enough beds, staff, and medical supplies. 

Of most concern to Oregonians is their hospitals not having enough staff to oversee patients. 85% of Oregonians are either very (60%) or somewhat (25%) concerned about this possibility, compared to only 11% of Oregonians who are either not at all or not very concerned (Q24).

  • More than two-thirds of women say they are “very” concerned about hospital staffing shortages (67%), compared to slightly more than half of men (53%).
  • As for area of the state, 90% of residents in Tri-County are very or somewhat concerned about this potential problem, compared to 83% of residents in Willamette Valley and Rest of State.

Oregonians have somewhat less concern about beds and medical supplies.  Regarding beds, 78% of Oregonians are either very (48%) or somewhat (30%) concerned about their hospitals not having enough beds for patients requiring hospital care, compared to 19% of Oregonians who are either not at all or not very concerned (Q23).

  • College graduates are slightly more concerned about their hospitals not having enough beds (84% vs. 73-77%).
  • Like with staffing, Oregonians in Tri-County are the most concerned about hospitals not having enough beds with 82% of residents being very or somewhat concerned compared to 76% of residents in Willamette Valley and 73% of residents in Rest of State.

Oregonians are similarly concerned about their hospitals not having enough specific medical supplies. 75% of Oregonians are either very (46%) or somewhat (29%) concerned about this potential problem, compared to 21% of Oregonians who are not at all concerned or not very concerned (Q25).

Long-term Impacts on Health Care Professionals

Many Oregonians think COVID-19 will have a negative long-term effect on the pool of healthcare workers available to adequately staff hospitals serving their area of Oregon. 43% of Oregonians strongly agree with this statement, 35% somewhat agree, 8% somewhat disagree, and only 5% strongly disagree (Q26).

  • Oregonians from Tri-County are slightly more likely than Oregonians from other regions to agree that COVID-19 will have a negative long-term effect on the pool of healthcare workers. 82% of Oregonians from the Tri-county area either strongly or somewhat agreed with this statement, compared to 76% of Oregonians from Willamette Valley and 75% of Rest of State. 
  • Oregonians making over $100,000 a year are more likely than Oregonians making less than $50,000 a year to strongly or somewhat agree.

Prioritizing Care: COVID vs. Other Serious and Life-Threatening Illnesses

Oregonians feel patients with COVID-19 should not be given priority over patients with other serious and life-threatening medical conditions now that vaccinations against COVID-19 are widely available and FDA approved. 30% strongly agree with this statement 34% somewhat agree, 15% somewhat disagree, and 9% strongly disagree. Notably, 12% of Oregonians responded that they don’t know (Q27).

  • Oregonians from Tri-County are slightly more likely than other Oregonians to agree that patients with COVID-19 should not be given priority. 68% of Oregonians from Tri-County either strongly or somewhat agree with this statement, compared to 60% of Oregonians in Willamette Valley and 61% of Oregonians in Rest of State.
  • Oregonians with higher levels of formal education are also more likely to agree that patients with COVID-19 should not be given priority. 73% of Oregonians who are college graduates either strongly or somewhat agree with this statement compared to 62% of Oregonians with some college and 59% of Oregonians with a high school education or below.
  • Oregonians with higher levels of income are also more likely than Oregonians with lower levels of income to think that patients with COVID-19 should not be given priority. 75% of Oregonians who make $100,000 or more annually somewhat or strongly agree with this statement compared to 65% of Oregonians who make $50,000-$100,000, and 59% of Oregonians who make less than $50,000.

Demographic Trends

Identifying What Unites Us, Understanding What Divides Us

Reported below are statistically significant subgroup differences between BIPOC and white Oregonians, urban and rural Oregonians, and age groups.  Many of these differences are not major and are presented to inform public education and communications initiatives. 

  • When it comes to COVID and the health care system, BIPOC Oregonians and white Oregonians express very similar levels of concern. BIPOC Oregonians are only slightly more likely than white Oregonians to be very or somewhat concerned about hospitals not having enough specific medical supplies (81% compared to 74%) (Q25).
  • Rural Oregonians are slightly less likely to be concerned than Oregonians in other regions about hospitals not having enough staff to treat and oversee patients with 80% either somewhat or very concerned compared to 87-89% of Oregonians in urban, suburban, and rural-to-suburban areas.  The same general trend was observed for concern about running out of hospital beds and not having enough specific medical supplies, with rural Oregonians registering less concern. 
  • Rural Oregonians are also less concerned about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the pool of available healthcare workers (73% vs. 80-82%).  They also are the least likely to agree that COVID patients should not be given priority over patients with other serious medical conditions. 
  • Oregonians between the ages of 65 and 74 are the most concerned about hospital bed shortages and staffing shortages (84% and 91%, respectively), but 18-29-year-olds are the age group most concerned about medical supply shortages (81%).
  • 8 in 10 Oregonians aged 45 and older agree that COVID will have long-term, negative impacts on the supply of healthcare workers in their area (80%-84%), while only about three-fourths of those 44 and younger agree (72-76%).
  • While Oregonians aged 75 and over are the least concerned age group when it comes to inadequate staffing for patient care (81%) and medical supply shortages (61%), they are the most likely to agree that COVID patients should not be prioritized over other patients with life-threatening conditions, by a margin of fourteen or more percentage points (88% vs. 74%-53%). Nearly half of those 75 and older say they “strongly agree” with this statement (49%).

This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, an independent and non-partisan organization. OVBC is an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation (www.oregonvbc.org).

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