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Metro hospital moves forward with plan to end emergency care

Published: May. 5, 2022 at 11:23 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - A metro Atlanta medical center is moving forward with its plan to end emergency services, despite some Fulton County leaders asking for it to hold off. It has the nearby community claiming the area will now be a so-called ‘hospital desert.’

“Growing up with them, they were always strategic about where they wanted to live.”

East Point resident Ivan Vassell III recalled his parents’ planning, “Make sure you live near a hospital in case something happens emergency wise.’”

Vassell moved right across the street from Wellstar’s Atlanta Medical Center South decades ago. His family considered it a win. But now, for the same reason, it feels like a loss.

New signage has gone up across the hospital property reading, “24/7 Urgent Care coming soon. No emergency services.”

The location is an ER that serves much of the community south of Atlanta, areas like the cities of East Point and South Fulton.

“It would very much be a desert,” claimed Vassell. “Being able to walk somewhere can make the difference between life or death, the difference between the moments of being able to diagnose very serious problem.”

The facility will still offer scans, behavioral health, and treatment for some injuries and illnesses.

Some neighbors consider it a “drying up of resources.” However, Wellstar argues its emergency care was under-used in the first place.

“The vast majority of people going to this location actually need urgent and primary care,” explained East Point Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham.

The mayor says the data showed only five percent of previous patients used ER hospitalization care. It’s why the facility claims it is only matching the need by changing its healthcare delivery model. But the change comes as the Fulton County Board of Commission asked the agency last month to hold off on scaling back.

Chairman Pitts told CBS46, that he wanted to review a tax plan that could bring in revenue for the hospital. The hospital confirmed to CBS46 that it is still moving forward with its plans Friday. However, Mayor Ingraham believes her city can only focus on the cards dealt now.

“I understand the concern but what’s needed is for people to [continue] to choose to receive their healthcare services here at this facility so that it can continue to survive and thrive,” said Mayor Ingraham.