Doctors worry of far-reaching impacts when Wellstar AMC Hospital closes

Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 6:05 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) – No matter what city you live in, if there is a mass casualty event or natural disaster, trauma centers like Atlanta Medical Center and Grady Hospital are ground zero for patient care.

With AMC closing, doctors are sounding the alarm. They’re fearful that Atlanta simply won’t be ready to respond.

Dr. Cecil Bennett calls the loss of a one of Atlanta’s only two Level 1 trauma centers catastrophic for patient care.

“Just having easy access to a hospital within a reasonable distance as opposed to going to Grady,” said Dr. Bennett of Noonan Family Medicine.

The closure, set for Nov. 1, comes six months after Wellstar converted its 250-bed East Point hospital into a primary care and outpatient facility - closing AMC South’s hospital and emergency department.

Dr. Bennett worries about a mass casualty event like a mass shooting, a bad car wreck, or even a plane crash.

“Not having an emergency room in that location only pushed patients further north to either Grady or AMC. Now with AMC closing, there’s only one location for metro Atlanta as well as anyone in the surrounding communities,” said Dr. Bennett.

AMC’s closure creates a domino effect for other hospitals. The Georgia Trauma Commission is tasked with overseeing the state’s network of trauma centers. Dr. Dennis Ashley says hospitals have plans in place for big natural disasters that shutdown a city.

“But on a daily basis when that’s not going on and trauma is going on, those hospitals aren’t geared to take care of trauma patients. They don’t have trauma teams on 24/7, standing by like a level one trauma center does,” said Dr. Dennis Ashley of the Georgia Trauma Commission.

Non-emergency patients could be impacted too. Dr. Ashley says some hospitals may find it necessary to cancel elective surgeries if tasked with helping an already stressed Grady Memorial.

“It’s harder to get up to speed and take care of those daily trauma surges which happen every day,” said Dr. Ashley.

If Grady Memorial Hospital gets overwhelmed, the closest hospitals equipped to help are at least 90 miles away.