1 year after Atlanta Medical Center's closure: Where things stand

Oct. 14 marks one year since the last patients left Wellstar Health System's Atlanta Medical Center. No plans are in place to build a new healthcare facility in its place, leaving Grady Memorial Hospital and clinics in the region operating on stretched resources, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported Oct. 16.

A moratorium restricting new development at AMC's former site is currently in place, and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has indicated he will renew the development ban for another six months, which prevents Wellstar from selling or redeveloping the land. 

Meanwhile, Grady — the only level 1 trauma center in the city of Atlanta — continues to see an influx of patients who would normally have gone to AMC. Mercy Care, an outpatient clinic that serves homeless patients, has also seen a jump in patient visits over the past year, according to the report. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's report also touched on a perhaps less discussed consequence of AMC's closure: Hundreds of physicians who worked at practices near the hospital have either moved, retired or have shut down their practices.

"In one swoop, you eliminated a large percentage of primary care doctors in an area that was already suffering," Tawian Livingston, MD, an internal medicine physician at a practice in Southwest Atlanta that referred patients to AMC, told the news outlet. 

By the end of October, Grady plans to start using 182 newly added beds — an expansion made possible after the system received a one-time allocation of $130 million from Georgia's federal pandemic funds. Mercy Care has also been able to hire new clinical leaders. Still, it may take years for other area hospitals and clinics to have the staffing and infrastructure in place to consistently manage a higher patient load. 

When Marietta, Ga.-based Wellstar said it was ending operations at the downtown Atlanta Medical Center last August, health system officials pointed to significant operating losses and said they had approached numerous stakeholders in search of partnerships to keep the hospital open. The system has faced criticism for pursuing a merger with Augusta (Ga.) University Health eight weeks after AMC's closure.

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