For several days now, Spain has been facing its biggest health crisis for decades. The Covid-19 coronavirus has plunged the country into one of the greatest challenges in its history, with thousands of people falling ill. What hospital capacity does each region have to cope?
According to data from the National Hospital Catalogue for 2019 prepared by the Ministry of Health and collected by the Brainsre Big Data real estate platform, Spain has 158,292 beds in total distributed across 917 public and private hospitals. At the national level, there are almost 3.4 hospital beds for every 1,000 inhabitants, and Cataluña is the region with the highest ratio. These resources, both public and private, are now being used to handle the serious crisis caused by coronavirus. As of yesterday, the country had more than 47,600 infected cases, of which almost 27,000 were hospitalised, which means that patients suffering from the pandemic are now occupying 17% of the nation’s hospital beds, according to data compiled by Brainsre.
Nevertheless, to the latest figure provided by the Ministry of Health, we have to add the numerous makeshift hospitals that are being built in facilities designed for other purposes, such as the Ifema exhibition centre in Madrid and the Feria de Muestras exhibition centre in Zaragoza; as well as the beds in the hotels that have been converted into hospitals in recent days as a result of the saturation of the health system due to the increase in the number of cases.
Taking into account the data from the National Hospital Catalogue only, Cataluña, Andalucía and the Community of Madrid are the regions with the highest number of hospital beds. Nevertheless, in the list of regions with the highest average number of beds per 1,000 inhabitants, Cataluña is still ranked first, and it is followed by Aragón and Castilla y León.
Cataluña, leading the way
The autonomous region with the most hospital beds in Spain is Cataluña. It has more than 34,610 units, which represents an average of 4.5 beds per 1,000 inhabitants. This is due to its large stock of private beds, almost 19,100, which account for 55% of the total, compared with the national average, which is split 33% private and 67% public. In comparison, Madrid has 20,516 beds, both public and private, a figure that is not much higher than the total number of private beds in Cataluña.
In this sense, it should be noted that the provinces of Tarragona and Barcelona have some of the highest ratios of beds per inhabitant in the country, with 4.8 and 4.6, respectively. That is also due to the large number of private hospitals there. “Recently, we saw the merger of IDC Salud and the Quirón Hospital Group. That gave rise to the Quirónsalud hospital group, which has a large presence in the region,” according to a study about private hospitals conducted by the Catalan Competition Authority in 2018, which explains that said group now accounts for more than 40% of the private healthcare market in the province of Barcelona.
In the case of Madrid, the region with the highest number of cases, it has 20,516 hospital beds, although it ranks below the national average with 3.1 beds per 1,000 inhabitants. The region has been the hardest hit by the pandemic: almost 14,600 coronavirus cases, of which 11,150 are hospitalised, occupying 54% of the total available beds, according to data from the Ministry of Health. In Cataluña, only 16% of the hospital space is allocated to coronavirus patients, even though 5,440 cases have been hospitalised.
“66% of the hospital beds in Madrid are public, a figure that is very much in line with the national average of 67%. So, it could be said that the level of privatisation of hospital beds in Madrid is similar to the national average,” says Antonio Ramudo, RE Data Scientist.
After Cataluña, Aragon is the autonomous region with the highest coverage ratio, with 4 hospital beds per 1,000 people. It is followed by Castilla y León, which has an average of 3.9 beds. In that region, the coverage ratios in Palencia and León stand out with, 5.2 and 4.8 beds per 1,000 inhabitants, respectively.
The regions with the fewest hospital beds
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Melilla has just 1.9 beds per 1,000 inhabitants, the lowest ratio in Spain. It is followed by Andalucía, which, despite being the second-ranked region in the country in terms of the absolute number of beds, with a total of 21,350, has the second-lowest ratio of beds per 1,000 inhabitants, with just 2.54. That is because the provinces of Almería, Granada and Jaén have an average of between 2 and 2.2 beds per 1,000 inhabitants.
They are followed by Castilla-La Mancha with 2.75 beds and the Community of Valencia with 2.8. The Castilla-La Mancha region is already suffering considerably from an increase in coronavirus cases; 2,160 people have been hospitalised there, according to data as of yesterday. The region has 5,590 beds in total and, after Madrid, has the highest percentage of hospital beds currently occupied by Covid-19 patients, at 39%. In fact, Cuenca and Toledo (which are both located in the region of Castilla-La Mancha) are ranked in the top five provinces with the lowest ratio of beds in Spain, with 2.1 and 2.3, respectively, whereas the average for Spain is 3.4
In terms of the absolute number of hospital beds, and with the exception of Ceuta and Melilla, La Rioja is the region with the fewest, just 1,050 in total; it is followed by Cantabria, with 2,020 beds, and Navarra, with 2,300 beds. In La Rioja, coronavirus patients are occupying 24% of the hospital beds, versus 22% in Navarra. Those figures compare to 20% of beds in the País Vasco. The healthcare coverage ratio in those three regions ranges between 3.3 and 3.6 beds per 1,000 inhabitants.
The over 65s, the most vulnerable
If we look at the number of beds per inhabitant for the over 65s – the most vulnerable group in the case of this pandemic-, the data from the National Hospital Catalogue shows that although some regions have high ratios in terms of general coverage, those figures deteriorate when we focus on the elderly population. The national average is 17.5 beds per 1,000 inhabitants aged 65 and over. Asturias and Galicia are the most vulnerable regions for this cohort with a ratio of 14.4 beds per 1,000 inhabitants. Although Castilla-La Mancha and the Community of Valencia are not far behind, both with a ratio of 14.5.
Asturias and Galicia, which are both in the top 5 in terms of the general coverage ratio, “drop markedly in this case because they have very ageing populations. In theory, they appear to be regions that are most vulnerable to the virus, alongside the Community of Valencia and Castilla-La Mancha,” says Ramudo.
By contrast, with the exception of Ceuta (with 25.4), the region with the greatest capacity to serve those aged over 65 is Cataluña with a ratio of 24 beds for every 1,000 inhabitants. It is followed by the Canary Islands with 22.2 and the Balearic Islands with 21.6. Nevertheless, to date, the hospital beds in those last two regions have not been saturated with coronavirus cases, with just 3% or 4% of the total hospital beds there accommodating Covid-19 patients.