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How Covid-19 Affects the Over-65s Depending on the Region in which They Live

Asturias, Galicia, Castilla-La Mancha and the Community of Valencia are the regions with the lowest average number of hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants over the age of 65, the group most vulnerable to the pandemic. Madrid and Castilla-La Mancha continue to be the regions dedicating the most space in their hospitals to patients with coronavirus.

Spain is immersed in its worst health crisis in decades. As of yesterday (30 March), the Covid-19 coronavirus had left almost 85,200 people infected and 7,340 dead. It is testing the country in many ways, but above all its health services. People aged over 65 years are most vulnerable to this pandemic. What hospital provision does each region have for the oldest members of our communities?

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 17.5 hospital beds for every 1,000 inhabitants aged over 65, and Cataluña is the region with the highest ratio. In total, almost 46,620 people are currently hospitalised due to coronavirus, which represents 29% of the total number of hospital beds nationwide.

That figure does not include the field hospitals that have been built in facilities such as the Ifema exhibition hall in Madrid and the Trade Fair space in Zaragoza; nor does it include the beds in the medicalised hotels that have been kitted out to relieve pressure on the health system.

According to data compiled by Brainsre, Asturias, Galicia, Castilla-La Mancha and the Community of Valencia are the regions with the lowest average number of hospital beds for every 1,000 inhabitants over 65 years of age. However, this does not mean that they have a smaller supply of beds; rather, that their populations are older than the rest. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Cataluña leads the ranking of autonomous regions with the highest ratio of beds per 1,000 people – with the exception of Ceuta -, followed by the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.

Asturias and Galicia are the most vulnerable regions for this segment of the population, with a ratio of 14.4 beds per 1,000 inhabitants over 65 years of age. Although Castilla-La Mancha and the Community of Valencia are not far behind, both with a ratio of 14.5. Despite the fact that Asturias and Galicia are ranked within the top five regions for the highest overall coverage ratio, “when considered in the context of the population profile, they drop markedly because they have very ageing populations. In theory, they seem to be the regions that are most vulnerable to the virus, along with the Community of Valencia and Castilla-La Mancha ”, highlights Antonio Ramudo, RE Data Scientist.

Although Asturias has 3,785 hospital beds and its general coverage ratio is 3.7 – above the national average of 3.4 -, the population aged over 65 years represents 26% of the total in the region. This means that, together with Galicia, it is the region that is most vulnerable to the virus. Nevertheless, it must be taken into account that it has one of the lowest numbers of infections and only 13% of the space in its hospitals is dedicated to patients with Covid -19. In this sense, in Galicia, 25% of the population is aged over 65 years, given that Ourense and Lugo rank in the ‘top 3’ of the country’s most elderly provinces with 31% and 29% of the population aged over 65 years, respectively. However, this region also has a general coverage ratio of 3.6 – above the national average – and is currently only dedicating 12% of its hospital beds to patients infected by the pandemic.

Castilla y León is the region with the second oldest population since 25% of its inhabitants are aged over 65 years. Despite the fact that the region has the third best average coverage ratio at 3.9 – behind only Cataluña and Aragon-, its ratio of beds per 1,000 elderly inhabitants is just 15.5. That is because six of its provinces have some of the most elderly populations in the country: Zamora, León, Salamanca, Ávila, Soria and Palencia have rates ranging between 25% and 31%. In total, 5,800 people are infected by coronavirus in the region, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

“The isolation in which many older people live in these areas – small municipalities with sparse populations – which are far away from large towns and provincial capitals, may help them overcome this crisis without being infected,” says Ramudo.

The regions most affected by the pandemic

The Community of Madrid has undoubtedly been the worst hit by Covid-19. It has recorded almost 24,100 infected patients and more than 3,390 deaths. In addition, the region is below the national average in terms of general hospital coverage with 3.1 beds per 1,000 inhabitants. Nor does it reach the average for the cohort aged over 65 years, since it has a ratio of 17.4. More than 14,910 people have been hospitalised in Madrid due to coronavirus, which accounts for 73% of all the beds in public and private hospitals, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Health. Those figures do not include the facilities created expressly for Covid-19.

Castilla-La Mancha is, after Madrid, the region with the highest percentage of hospital beds currently dedicated to patients with Covid-19: 56% of its space, equivalent to 5,860 cases. In addition, it is also one of the four regions with the lowest ratio of beds per 1,000 elderly inhabitants, with 14.5. That is because its general coverage ratio is 2.8, whereas the national average is 3.4. The same is true in the Community of Valencia, where although patients with coronavirus currently occupy only 15% of the total available beds, they already exceed 5,100 cases.

La Rioja is dedicating 49% of the space in its hospitals to infected patients with 1,730 cases. The region has a general coverage ratio of 3.3, slightly below the national average, and 15.8 for the elderly population.

In this sense, the Basque Country is below the national average, with 16.3 beds per 1,000 inhabitants over the age of 65, despite its coverage ratio being 3.6, i.e. above the average for Spain. It is the region with the fourth oldest population in the country, with 22% of its population aged over 65 years. Currently, the Basque Country is dedicating 43% of its hospital beds to those infected with Covid-19, equivalent to 6,060 cases.

On the other hand, in Navarra those infected by Covid-19 occupy 42% of the total hospital beds in the region, where there are more than 2,140 cases.

Regions with the largest supply of hospital beds

The autonomous region with the greatest capacity to serve those aged over 65 is, with the exception of Ceuta with 25.4, Cataluña with a ratio of 24 beds per 1,000 inhabitants. That is because it is the region with the most hospital beds in Spain, due to its large stock of private beds, almost 19,100, equivalent to 55% of the total. That compares with the national average of 33% private and 67% public. Despite being the region with the second highest number of infections, with 16,160 cases, only 34% of its hospital beds are occupied.

It is followed by the Canary Islands with 22.2 hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants aged over 65 years and the Balearic Islands with 21.6. Nevertheless, to date, the hospitals in the latter two regions have not been saturated with coronavirus infections. In the Canary Islands there are 1,100 cases in total, occupying 6% of the hospital beds; whilst in the Balearic Islands, there are 1,000 cases, occupying 9%. In both regions, as well as in Murcia, the population aged over 65 years represents 16% of the total.

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