Building on a legacy of trust

Perspective on Oregon Health Care

by Becky Hultberg
Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland opened its doors in 1875, a mere 16 years after Oregon was granted U.S. statehood. Considered the first permanent hospital in Oregon, Providence St. Vincent has remained steadfast in its commitment to patient care for almost 150 years.
Few organizations have stood the test of time, boasting a history that spans nearly one and half centuries. The enduring presence of hospitals like Providence St. Vincent underscores a commitment to the communities they serve, today, tomorrow and years into the future. Serving as care providers, healers, employers and champions of local causes, these hospitals are intricately woven into the very fabric of their communities. Whether faced with a sudden disaster, a global pandemic, or the unexpected illness of a child in the middle of the night, people depend on their local hospitals to provide support and care.
Our own survey data and study after study at the national level reinforce that people trust their local hospital. This high degree of trust exists in stark contrast to the eroding public faith in so many of our traditional institutions, which has been in a state of steady decline for years. And it’s not hard to see why. If we turn on the news, we are inundated with dysfunctional narratives across many sectors including government and business. At some point, it seems we simply stopped being connected, one human to another. 
As much as hospitals utilize the latest tools and technology in patient care, it’s their people who make them places of health and healing. Their commitment to providing the best care to patients is why nurses, doctors and pharmacists are among the professions with the highest ethics ratings, according to a Gallup poll from December 2022.
The high level of public trust makes sense. Our individual health care journeys are personal and at times can make us feel vulnerable. In our rural communities, from Klamath Falls to Lincoln City to John Day, patients often have an even closer relationship with members of their team from the nurse by the bedside to the staff who ensure the room is clean to prevent infection. In a disconnected world, hospitals are a place of connection where compassion, empathy and active listening are a critical part of the health care journey. And in a time when people believe large institutions have failed them, hospitals are an enduring and reliable presence.
That’s why I’m proud to work on behalf of Oregon’s hospitals—institutions that remain trusted because so many Oregonians have experienced the care they provide firsthand. That’s not something I take for granted, and I know that feeling is shared by our team at the Hospital Association of Oregon. We are grateful for the trust Oregon’s hospitals have built over the years, and we hope to use that trust as a foundation to innovate and improve our health care system, putting our patients and communities at the center of all we do.