Atlanta Medical Center shutters ED; local emergency response times soar

Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center closed its emergency department Oct. 14 in preparation to shutter completely Nov. 1, leaving local residents worried and nearby hospitals scrambling. 

The emergency department, which began patient diversions Oct. 3, shut down at 7 a.m. Oct. 14, according to Fox affiliate WAGA. Patients requiring urgent care will now be transported to Grady Memorial Hospital, also in Atlanta, or Lithonia, Ga.-based Emory Hillandale Hospital. 

Wellstar sent nearby residents informational cards about where else to find emergency care, some who live near the hospital told ABC affiliate WSB. However, some residents said the cards came too late. 

"We didn't expect this was going to happen tomorrow," one resident told the news station Oct. 13. "A lot of people are going to end up dying," another speculated. 

DeKalb County recently allotted $20 million in relief funds to the two hospitals: $12 million to Emory Hillandale and $8 million to Grady Memorial. Both have experienced an influx in patients since Wellstar's facility began diversions. 

Grady Memorial was already suffering slow emergency response times before the closure of Atlanta Medical Center, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported Oct. 13. In the first half of 2022, the average Grady ambulance took 28 minutes to respond to calls. The Wellstar hospital's closure leaves Grady the only level 1 trauma center in Atlanta, which will "only increase" its hold times, a Grady spokesperson told the Journal-Constitution

Meanwhile, county officials continue to debate the future of the 20-acre Wellstar site. A proposal to make the hospital an equity center was tabled for two weeks on Oct. 11, and the mayor's redevelopment ban is expected to receive another extension at the Oct. 17 City Council meeting.

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