ATLANTA (Atlanta Now News at 10 a.m.) — Outrage and concern are coming from all quarters over Wellstar’s decision to close the Atlanta Medical Center. Community members and elected officials have weighed in on the fate of the 120-year-old hospital.
Wellstar, which has operated the facility since 2016, said it will close shutdown operations there on November 1, 2022.
“My granddaughter was born here today, and we only had two options of hospitals to take her to, and this is one of the two, so I don’t understand what they’re going to do. with the other mothers who don’t have another hospital to go to,” said Atlanta resident Christina Salatino.
“We will miss it because a lot of people use this hospital,” said local resident David Marshall.
Wellstar blames inflation, declining revenue and more than $100 million in losses, saying these played a role in the decision to close the facility. They previously closed a South Side hospital, with both closures impacting low-income communities in metro Atlanta.
The AMC closure comes as emergency rooms in state hospitals are already overcrowded. The move will leave Grady Memorial Hospital, based in downtown Atlanta, as the only Level I trauma center in North Georgia. The other Level I trauma centers in the state are in Augusta, Macon, and Savannah.
Grady Health System officials released a statement about the closure and its potential effects on the already overcrowded conditions at Grady Memorial.
“Grady Health System is extremely disappointed with Wellstar’s decision to close Atlanta Medical Center (AMC), which serves a majority minority and underserved community. In April, Wellstar made the decision to close the AMC South location with the caution that they would remain committed to serving the community. Closing its second hospital in less than six months will have a devastating impact on patients, staff and the Southeast region. Without a transition plan and a referral mechanism for its patients, there will be detrimental consequences to health care access for residents of the Atlanta metro area and area hospitals.
As a non-profit healthcare system, Wellstar’s mission was to improve the health and well-being of every member of the community, but they clearly prioritized profits over people leaving 460 beds empty. of licensed hospitals in the community and more than 120 patients. a day having to seek emergency care elsewhere.
Grady is really the only real safety net in Georgia, and its capacity is exceeding daily, and this decision by Wellstar to abandon the community will put even more strain on our operations, especially our emergency room, as more patients will present medical needs. We have seen a significant increase in ER visits since the AMC South closed, which will be further exacerbated once the AMC Downtown closes.
Grady’s commitment to serving our community with excellence will remain unchanged as we stay true to our mission to improve the health and well-being of every patient we serve. Grady is exploring all available legal options to protect our patients, employees and this entire region.”
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens sent a letter to Wellstar CEO Candice Saunders highlighting the “profound and resounding consequences” the decision will have on community residents who depend on AMC’s resources.
Dickens again highlighted Wellstar’s decision to close two facilities that serve low-income populations in metro Atlanta, and said Wellstar’s plans not only reach thousands of peoplebut will impact the community without indicating plans for its facilities once they close.
“(T)he Atlanta Medical Center occupies significant real estate in the heart of Atlanta’s historic Old Fourth Ward. The closure will leave an open wound in the heart of this community with no articulated plan for its conversion or transition once that the hospital will cease operations,” Dickens said. “As a partner in ensuring the health and economic vitality of our community, the City of Atlanta must immediately engage in this matter. I request a meeting with your key leaders no later than September 16 to address these issues. “
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s office released a statement saying it “shares the concerns of the community about the impact this will have.” He said other hospitals and healthcare providers will have to change their needs and services.
“Governor Kemp will continue to build on the policy innovations introduced over the past four years that have expanded access to quality health care while reducing costs for Georgians across the state,” said Kemp.
Kemp’s Democratic opponent in the upcoming general election, Stacey Abrams, said on Twitter that AMC’s closure may be directly linked to “Kemp’s refusal to expand Medicaid”.
“The closure of Atlanta Medical Center on November 1 will leave Georgians in a medical crisis caused entirely by the current governor’s refusal to expand Medicaid,” Abrams said. “And even worse, 19 other rural hospitals across Georgia are also at risk of closing.”
Wellstar did not say whether Medicaid expansion in Georgia was a factor in their decision to close the Atlanta Medical Center.
Other companies are already looking to hire Wellstar workers who will lose their jobs.
“We could give them the opportunity to move into a new role with another company, so at least it wouldn’t impact caregivers,” said Robert Bowman, a recruiter at Medside Healthcare.
Wellstar has yet to release details on how it will phase out operations at AMC by November.