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Allocating Finite Resources and Social Issues


The limit of non-renewable or finite resources causes a necessity to develop a strategy for their advantageous utilization. Therefore, the problem of their proper allocation has been discussed by scientists worldwide for a long time. In addition, with the emergence of COVID-19, which only strengthened this issue, the concern of healthcare resource allocation has become urgent and has required an immediate solution. The problem of allocating resources either in the healthcare sphere or other spheres of life is partly caused by social issues. These issues include improper rationing, the shortage of health workers, the rising rate of uninsured, price gouging, and the aging of the population.

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Rationing, which can be understood as the controlled distribution of services and goods, is one of the essential social issues related to allocating resources. In the healthcare sphere, this concept refers to the supervised regulation of all drugs, vaccines, and medical services to all people who need them. It is not easy to distribute the resources: the ethical side of allocation is often neglected. Mannelli (2020, p. 365) claims that when the resources are too limited, one uses the principle stating that “equals should be treated equally and that unequals should be treated unequally.” For instance, according to Farrell et al.’s (2020) study, racial and ethnic groups face the significant risk of not getting the required resources during allocation. Thus, primarily due to the impossibility of healing everyone equally, rationing became dubious.

The pandemic forces clinics to face a situation involving many patients and a lack of ventilators or even beds. Therefore, medicals are forced to choose whom they should save in the first place, and rating becomes pretty subjective and not entirely fair. Rationing based on subjectivity cannot positively influence the problem of allocating finite resources. It is necessary to include “transparency and inclusivity in developing allocation protocols to ensure inequities are not exacerbated or perpetuated” (Laventhal et al., 2020, p. 19). Well-thought rationing conducted considering all ethical nuances contributes to better allocating since all people have an equal right to obtain the prescribed medicine or gloves, especially in challenging pandemic times.

The Shortage of Health Workers

The shortage of high-quality medical employees also belongs to allocating resources’ most significant social issue. The lack of medical workers is not less important than the lack of ventilators since, while ventilators are needed by hundreds, the support and help of an employee is necessary for thousands. Thus, there is an urgent need to increase the number of specialists to date. The studies show that “a shortage of medical staff destroys the medical environment and disrupts the medical order” (Chen et al., 2019, p. 1). Rural areas face even more challenges since more professionals strive to work in well-equipped clinics. Due to a shortage of health workers, the proper allocation of resources becomes almost impossible.

The Rising Rate of Uninsured People and the Rising Prices

More and more people refuse insurance, which negatively affects the allocation of resources. Experience demonstrates that the states that “fully implemented the health insurance system in the health care system have achieved the greatest success in solving the problem of health promotion” (Yaroshenko et al., 2018, p. 1). Thus, health insurance is essential since it covers medical expenses and gives its owners more access to medical services.

The rising prices are one of the eternal problems for many people in different spheres of life. High prices establish a wall separating people and resources, and not everyone can overcome it. In the healthcare sphere, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the necessity to buy personal protective equipment (PPE), vitamin tablets, immune booster pills, and drugs. Healthcare service providers are also struggling “to procure sufficient critical healthcare equipment, notably, PPE, and as demand continues to increase” (Yuk-Chiu Yip, 2021, p. 1). Therefore, rising prices complicate the appropriate allocation of resources, making them inaccessible for those who cannot afford to pay for them.

The Aging of the Population

The aging of the population also belongs to social issues of the allocation of resources. Since the average duration of life has become longer and different chronic diseases in most cases characterize old age, medical workers should pay more attention to older adults. The allocation of resources requires a well-developed strategy that considers the aging of the population (Worby & Chang, 2020). Many resources are used not to help aged people or increase the duration of life but to conduct various research focused on the senior population. The pandemic makes older adults more vulnerable, but not all medical specialists strive to help them when they need to choose whose life they must save. There were offers to “use age cutoffs to deny admission to ventilator support,” but it “could lead to beliefs that older adults’ lives are less valuable than others’ lives” (Farrell et al., 2020, p. 1145). Thus, aging is a social issue that needs to be thoroughly explored.

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The allocation of resources, especially at the height of the pandemic, is an urgent problem that needs to be solved. The search for potential solutions requires consideration of social issues related to this concern, including rationing, the shortage of medical employees, the increase of uninsured people, the rising prices, and the aging of the population. Thus, the improvement of rationing, increasing health workers and insured people, and reducing costs can contribute to better allocating resources.


Chen, X., Ran, L., Zhang, Y., Yang, J., Yao, H., Zhu, S., & Tan, X. (2019). Moderating role of job satisfaction on turnover intention and burnout among workers in primary care institutions: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health 19, 1526. Web.

Farrell, T. W., Francis, L., Brown, T., Ferrante, L. E., Widera, E., Rhodes, R., … Saliba, D. (2020). Rationing limited healthcare resources in the COVID-19 era and beyond: Ethical considerations regarding older adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 68(6), 1143-1149. Web.

Laventhal, N., Basak, R., Dell, M. L., Diekema, D., Elster, N., Geis, G., … Macauley, R. (2020). The ethics of creating a resource allocation strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pediatrics, 146(1). Web.

Mannelli, C. (2020). Whose life to save: Scarce resources allocation in the COVID-19 outbreak. Journal of Medical Ethics, 46(6), 364-366.

Worby, C. J., & Chang, H. H. (2020). Face mask use in the general population and optimal resource allocation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nature Communication, 11. Web.

Yaroshenko, O., Vapnyarchuk, N., Lozovoi, S., Yakovleva, G., & Yakovlyev, O. (2018). General-compulsory medical insurance: World experience. Journal of Advanced Research in Law and Economics, 9(5), 1829-1838.

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Yuk-Chiu Yip, J. (2021). Healthcare resource allocation in the COVID-19 pandemic: Ethical considerations from the perspective of distributive justice within public health. Public Health in Practice, 2. Web.

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