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The Missouri counties most (and least) equipped to hospitalize their older populations

Missouri ranks fairly well compared to other states when it comes to total hospital beds per capita
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

ST. LOUIS — According to the CDC, eight out of 10 COVID-19 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults aged 65 or older, who are more susceptible to the virus. As the nation braces for a greater wave of COVID-19 patients entering hospitals in the next few weeks, we took a look at how well Missouri’s 114 counties are equipped to provide intensive care for their older populations.

Missouri ranks fairly well compared to other states when it comes to total hospital beds per capita. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the state has 3.1 staffed hospital beds for every 1,000 people living within its borders. That puts Missouri just outside the top quartile of U.S. states, tied for 13th place with Alabama.

But how equipped is Missouri to treat critical cases among its older residents? According to a recent Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services report, the state currently has 1,883 intensive care unit (ICU) beds. That’s about 1.8 ICU beds for every 1,000 people aged 65 or older, based on 2018 population data from the Missouri Census Data Center.

However, only 66 of Missouri’s 114 counties have hospitals, and only 41 of those counties have ICU beds. We ranked the 41 counties, plus the city of St. Louis, by their ability to treat critical cases among their older populations. To do so, we measured how many ICU beds each county has for every 1,000 residents aged 65 or older. To break ties, we used a secondary ranking of the number of total licensed beds per 1,000 seniors.

The best-equipped county is Newton, home of Joplin, Missouri, in the southwest corner of the state. Newton County has 9.9 ICU beds for every 1,000 people aged 65 and up. The city of St. Louis has the second-most ICU beds per capita, with 8.7 for every 1,000 seniors.

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