Wellstar to close 2nd hospital in 6 months

Wellstar Health System plans to end operations at the downtown Atlanta Medical Center on Nov. 1, according to an Aug. 31 news release shared with Becker's. In May the health system closed the emergency department and hospital beds at  Atlanta Medical Center's South campus, repurposing the facility into an urgent care clinic. 

Marietta, Ga.-based Wellstar has operated the 460-bed hospital in downtown Atlanta since 2016 and invested more than $350 million in capital improvements and to support sustained operating losses, including $107 million lost in the last 12 months, according to the news release. 

Physicians and team members will continue to care for patients as services gradually wind down. All operations are scheduled to end on Nov. 1. 

Wellstar CEO Candice Saunders said the health system conducted an exhaustive search for a solution that would support the community's healthcare needs. 

"We realize this news impacts the lives of our team members and the patients we serve in very personal and significant ways," Ms. Saunders said. "We are deeply grateful to the dedicated team at AMC who have long served our communities with compassion and excellence."

Wellstar approached government agencies, healthcare providers and local organizations in search of partnerships and solutions to sustain operations, according to the news release. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said the city "received no advance notice of this decision" in a letter to Wellstar's CEO. He requested a Sept. 16 meeting with health system leaders to discuss how they plan to mitigate health and economic consequences for residents and staff at the medical center. 

Atlanta-based Grady Health System said it is "extremely disappointed" with the decision and is concerned about how the closure may strain capacity at its hospital, according to a statement sent to local CBS affiliate WGCL. The closure makes Grady the only level 1 trauma center in Atlanta's metro area.

"Grady Health System is extremely disappointed in Wellstar's decision to close Atlanta Medical Center, which serves a predominantly minority and underserved community," the statement said. "Grady is really the only true safety net in Georgia, and it runs over capacity daily, and this decision by Wellstar to abandon the community will further strain our operations, particularly in our emergency room, as more patients will present with medical needs."

Grady said it has already experienced a "significant increase in emergency visits" since Wellstar closed the emergency department at Atlanta Medical Center's South campus in East Point. Grady said its ER capacity strain "will be further exacerbated once the downtown AMC location is closed." 

Editor's note: Becker's has reached out to Wellstar and will update the report as more information becomes available. 

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