After weeks of drama, disappointment, Atlanta Medical Center to close

Despite these losses, Wellstar Health System still made money. During the same period, the period ending June 30, 2022, the entire Wellstar Health System reported operating income of $106 million, after expenses were subtracted.

Wellstar is a not-for-profit hospital system, meaning it pays no taxes and is meant to provide care for the welfare of the community.

Bree Davis, a new mom, has yet to use the downtown Atlanta Medical Center hospital. But she intended to if she needed help with her new baby.

Davis chose a pediatrician for her new baby at the Wellstar medical practice buildings next to AMC, in part because the hospital was nearby. Speaking to a reporter on Oct. 25, it was the first time Davis had learned the hospital was a week away from closing.

“I’m kind of in shock,” Davis said. “Because I didn’t know they were closing.”

Having her new pediatrician across the street from a hospital gave her and her new baby some security: “Just in case something should happen, you know, she’s right across the street . So literally the access is right there.

Atlanta and state leaders and health officials have said they were blindsided by the news.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has repeatedly condemned Wellstar’s decision closing the hospital and the inability of the health system to alert local leaders in advance. However, shortly after the announcement, officials said they were unsure if anything could be done to stop him. Democratic leaders within the state saw the shutdown as a rallying cry for Medicaid expansion in Georgia.

Local and state officials have scrambled to find funds to bolster nearby hospitals where former AMC patients are now expected to seek treatment.

On September 15, Governor Brian Kemp announced that he would send $130 million in aid from the US Federal Rescue Plan Act Georgia funds allocated to the Grady Health System to add approximately 185 hospital beds. Additionally, the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners authorized total funding of $20 million for Grady and Emory Hillandale hospitals.

Beverly Walker was at a doctor’s appointment last week at one of the Wellstar medical practice buildings next to AMC. She’s also a longtime customer of the hospital itself – for maybe 20 years, she said. She was in there this year, doing an X-ray of her hand.

“I think it’s sad,” Walker said. “There are a lot of people who have been there, and it is necessary.”

To prevent the sale and redevelopment of the large AMC site — which covers nearly two blocks — Dickens barred new land use applications, ordering the city’s planning department to deny any requests for rezoning, building permits, or land disturbances on the land. Dickens said Atlanta wants to prioritize continued use of the site — in whole or in part — for health services.

Ultimately, the Atlanta City Council voted unanimously to extend the site’s redevelopment ban for 180 days until April 23, 2023.

Most local emergency rooms were operating above capacity before AMC closed. Other area hospitals have already begun to experience increased emergency room traffic following AMC’s emergency room closures. Now there is only one Level 1 trauma center left in the city, in Grady. Level 1 trauma centers are able to provide care for all aspects of an injury.

According to data published by Wellstar in 2020.

Local officials gathered at an event hosted by the Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Healthcare Improvement (ARCHI) as part of a continue the conversation to discuss the health care needs of the city October 21. Health care advocates worry that the city’s underserved communities will face worse health outcomes as a result of the shutdown.

“It’s incumbent on local leaders, both at the local and state level, to start talking to citizens instead of talking to each other,” Gerald Griggs, president of the NAACP Georgia, said at a conference in press outside Atlanta City Hall on Oct. 25.

Just a day earlier, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Wellstar intended to completely close their East Point clinic which still serves walk-in patients. These patients will be transferred to a nearby clinic, which Wellstar will subsidize for a limited time. Wellstar has not confirmed the report.

“We’re getting worse instead of better,” said Richard Rose, president of the Atlanta-Fulton County branch of the NAACP. “We need to stop the decline and move forward.”

AJC writer Ariel Hart contributed to this report.

About Atlanta Medical Center

Beds: 460

Location: Boulevard and Parkside Drive

Owned by: Wellstar Health System since 2015

Closing Date: Nov 1, 2022

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Timeline: Atlanta Medical Center Closing

  • April 6, 2022

    Wellstar Health System announces plans to close the emergency department and hospital at Atlanta Medical Center South in East Point to an outpatient clinic.

  • August 31

    Wellstar Health System confirms that it will close the Atlanta Medical Center in downtown Atlanta on November 1. Local officials say they were not notified of the plans.

  • September 8

    To prepare nearby Grady Memorial Hospital for the influx of patients, the Fulton County Commission is approving $11 million in reimbursement dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

  • September 15

    Governor Brian Kemp announces a $130 million cash injection to the Grady Health System to add 185 hospital beds.

  • September 26

    Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens orders the City Planning Department to deny any rezoning or construction requests on AMC’s downtown lands.

  • October 14

    The Atlanta Medical Center emergency room is closing.

  • October 17

    Atlanta City Council extends moratorium on AMC site redevelopment through April 2023.

  • October 24

    Wellstar announces $5 million investment in primary care clinic adjacent to Atlanta Medical Center South