Challenges Faced in Upholding Medical Ethics in Safety-Net Healthcare Systems

Safety-net health systems are critical to providing adequate healthcare to underserved populations such as ethnic or racial minorities and uninsured and low-income individuals. A September 2023 Census Bureau report noted that 7.9% of the American population, or 26 million people, were uninsured in 2022.

Several studies have also shown that racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to face challenges when trying to access medical care in North America. Black, Hispanic and Asian populations appear to have lower access to health insurance coverage in the United States, with Hispanic individuals reportedly facing more significant barriers to accessing health insurance.

Safety-net health systems are designed to help these underserved groups gain much-needed access to safe and effective healthcare on time. However, these systems have limited resources and are struggling to serve underserved populations adequately, resulting in ethical challenges and dilemmas for healthcare providers. These ethical challenges are typically complex and multifaceted, requiring the careful allocation of limited resources while eliminating healthcare access disparities and ensuring all patients receive quality medical care.

Limited resources are one of the key challenges facing safety-net health systems. As a result, vulnerable populations are often overlooked or left underserved. This leads to significant disparities in healthcare access that cause poorer health outcomes and exacerbate already existing inequalities in the healthcare sector. Healthcare professionals in safety-net health systems are often left to deal with these disparities and strive to provide underserved populations with quality healthcare despite having minimal resources.

Resource allocation has also proven to be a challenge due to the high demand for medical care. Lack of adequate resources means healthcare providers often have to choose who receives what medical care and when they can receive it, raising the question of equity, fairness and justice in the provision of healthcare.

Healthcare professionals tasked with allocating limited resources carry a significant moral and emotional burden. Many of them struggle to juggle limited resource allocation with providing quality medical care, resulting in moral distress and eventually burnout. These challenges underscore the need for safety-net health system healthcare providers to abide by medical ethics.

Despite the challenges safety-net health systems face, the services they provide are critical to ensuring underserved populations with limited healthcare access can get quality medical care when they need it.

Adhering to principles such as nonmaleficence, justice, respect for autonomy and beneficence can guide healthcare providers in these systems as they make the difficult decisions required to ensure equitable access to healthcare.

Entities such as Astiva Health are stepping up to the challenge and playing their part in bringing quality and equitable healthcare to underserved Southern California communities as best they can.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Astiva Health are available in the company’s newsroom at

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