TARGET 8: Nine counties without a hospital in mid-Missouri

Related Story

MORGAN COUNTY - KOMU 8 News mapped out all of the hospitals and ambulance bases in mid-Missouri and found that nine counties in our viewing area do not have a hospital. KOMU 8 then mapped out driving directions using Google Maps and found numerous cities and towns that are at least 25 minutes away from the closest hospital. Even though ambulances can legally drive faster than the speed limit, on many of the roads in rural Missouri, that's not possible.

The following Google Map also lists information on how many beds are in each hospital and if the Department of Health Senior Services considers it as critical access, meaning it meets criteria for protection by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The nine counties without hospitals are:

  • Chariton County
  • Howard County
  • Miller County
  • Maries County
  • Moniteau County
  • Monroe County
  • Montgomery County
  • Morgan County
  • Osage County

These cities and towns KOMU 8 News mapped out are among those more than 25 minutes away from the nearest hospital:

  • Fayette- 27 minutes
  • Salisbury- 28 minutes
  • Paris- 30 minutes
  • Vienna- 30 minutes
  • Tipton- 31 minutes
  • Tuscumbia- 31 minutes
  • Belle- 32 minutes
  • Owensville- 34 minutes
  • Glasgow- 35 minutes
  • Stover- 36 minutes
  • Versailles- 44 minutes

In an emergency, minutes matter. The American Stroke Association said patients should get a CT scan within 25 minutes of initial symptoms. Lee Kempf, Mid-Mo Ambulance District administrator, said he knows this is not possible for his area, which covers two counties, Morgan and Moniteau.

“Anything that you can think of that, ‘Boy I think an ambulance should be there in 10 minutes,’ is just not going to happen when you’re that far away from people,” Kempf said.

He has worked in these counties for more than 20 years, so he understands that some people want to live away from the “rat race” of the cities.

“People have a tendency to like to be off the beaten path so that they have nothing but nature around them,” he said.

'There's no way we're going to get there in time'

But being so deep in nature can come with a consequence.

“If someone calls and says, ‘I don’t think my husband’s breathing.’ If they truly aren’t breathing, there’s no way we’re going to get there in time to do anything,” Kempf said.

Road conditions can make the distance worse, according to Kempf. Privately maintained roads, mud, snow and ice all pose a challenge.

“Those roads are sometimes virtually impassable,” he said. “You can have all the care in the world, and you don’t have the ability to get somewhere, it doesn’t matter.”

Ivy Bend, a town in Morgan County, can be up to an hour away from the closest hospital, Lake Regional Hospital. Kempf said his district answers multiple calls a week there, which can increase response times for other calls because of the total time it takes to answer.

“If we’re deep in Ivy Bend, the total time from the time we get the call until the time we get back in services is around two and a half hours,” Kempf said.

Jesse Jackson, who lives in Versailles, said he would most likely go to his local doctor if he was in a life-or-death emergency.

“If I was having a heart attack or a stroke or something, I would want to get somewhere quickly,” Jackson said.

He said he would ask his doctor to get a medical helicopter or whatever she needed to keep him alive because she lives 10 miles away from his house.

District concerned about future of its ambulance service

Kempf has two ambulances in Morgan County and two in Moniteau County. This number has not changed in his 20 years at the district, even though the number of calls has increased.

“When I first came here, we had four ambulances and we responded to a total of a thousand calls district-wide the first year I was here,” Kempf said. “We now respond to about 32, 33 hundred calls with the same number of ambulances.”

He said his district’s $3 million budget is tight because he operates with a $60,000 reserve and has to replace an ambulance each year. He is concerned about having to cut an ambulance in the future because of the cost of replacing one.

“If we don’t stay ahead of it, somehow, someway… that’s just something I don’t even want to think about,” he said.