State commission warns AMC closure will have ‘dramatic’ ripple effect

With Atlanta Medical Center expected to close on Nov. 1, that leaves Georgia with four level one hospitals, including Grady
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 6:19 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Health professionals are predicting the closure of Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center (AMC) will have negative effects that stretch beyond metro Atlanta.

For years, AMC was Vincent Pearson’s primary hospital. However, the 64-year-old doesn’t know what he’ll do now that the level one trauma center is closing on November 1.

“It’s definitely not putting the patient first,” Pearson said. “I’m just trying to figure out what they have in place to, like a safety net, to help all these people who are going to be affected like me.”

While patients scramble to find alternatives, health professionals are bracing for the impact the closure will have across Georgia.

“The ripple effect across the state is going to be dramatic,” said Liz Atkins, the executive director for the Georgia Trauma Commission.

Atkins said Atlanta already absorbs the bulk of the state’s trauma patients. With AMC gone, that leaves the state with just four level one hospitals. Grady Hospital is routinely overcrowded. Macon, Augusta, and Savannah also have level one facilities.

“We simply just don’t have enough space to take care of everybody and trauma beds are even more scarce resource than hospital beds,” said Atkins.

No one knows that better than Dr. Dennis Ashley, director of trauma services at Atrium Health Navicent Medical Center, the level one trauma center in Macon. The hospital periodically intakes Atlanta patients when AMC and Grady go on diversion.

“Even with both level ones, Atlanta is very tight on access to trauma care,” Ashley said.

Ashley is the chair of the Georgia Trauma Commission, which is tasked with overseeing the state’s network of trauma centers. The commission supports trauma-designated hospitals, generating around $23 million annually through Super Speeder fees and fireworks taxes. But Ashley believes that amount is no longer enough.

“Somewhere in the $80 million range is somewhere we need to be where it be reasonable to cover everything, we need to cover statewide for our trauma system,” he added.

The Commission is working to collect more data to better understand the true impact the closure will have, and help regions plan accordingly.

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