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'They've abandoned us' | Residents react to closing of Wellstar ER in East Point

As a result, South Fulton County lost its only full-care hospital.

SOUTH FULTON, Ga. — Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center South in East Point has closed its emergency department. The major health system says now it is a 24-hour urgent care and rehabilitation facility instead.

Corro'll Driskell said his family moved nearby about a decade ago because of the emergency hospital's close location. Now, he said because of this transition, his family is thinking of relocating.

"I was concerned because if I have a true emergency at my home this would be the first hospital they would target for me to be serviced. Now I either have to go to Douglasville or Piedmont Hospital or Emory Hospital," he said.

Driskell explained that means about an additional 20-minute drive if his family has an emergency.

"Heart attacks, stroke, or even a biking accident, a car accident that's life-threatening? Minutes mean everything. I would prefer seconds," he said.

On Thursday, "24/7 urgent care coming soon, no emergency services" signs were on display outside of Wellstar AMC South. 

As of Friday at 12:01 a.m. that transition took place. This means that now there are no emergency room hospitals south of I-20 in Fulton County.

"Urgent care? I have an urgent care location on Camp Creek. Why drive here for urgent care?" said Driskell.

RELATED: 'It's betrayal' | Atlanta Medical Center South staff forced to relocate, hospital to shut down

Wellstar said the hospital has had to transition into an urgent care model because there aren't enough people seeking care. Driskell said it's because not enough people knew about it.

"They haven't been advertising that the hospital is here," he said. "I have not seen any flyers or ads on TV, or on Facebook. They should've done that before abandoning this area."

East Point Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham told 11Alive the hospital will keep the necessary licenses so it can always transition back if necessary.

"99% of the people who showed up at the center is for emergency services, but they don't need that level of acute care. So in transitioning to meet the needs of the community, they show up into a better primary preventative model," she said.

The health system said that as of Thursday, more than 95% of employees here have accepted new positions in other hospitals, with most of them serving at the AMC Downtown location.

Wellstar added that it has been coordinating with EMS providers these past couple of weeks.

"We've actually had no inpatient admissions since April 20, and no EMS visits since April 27," a spokesperson told 11Alive.

RELATED: AMC South to shut down | Here's how one Fulton County commissioner wants to keep it open

Here's the full statement, provided by Wellstar in early April, as to why this decision was made:

“We are not closing Atlanta Medical Center South. We are transitioning to a new model of care that better meets our patients’ needs,” said Candice Saunders, President & CEO of Wellstar Health Network. “Our patients will receive better care for their needs, from the same care teams that they do now, all in the same place.”

Data shows that on average there are 140 emergency department visits a day at AMC South, with only 7 resulting in inpatient hospital care (5%). For this reason, Wellstar is transitioning AMC South to a care model that provides the primary care, chronic care, medication care and rehabilitative care that our community needs and is using. This care will be available 24/7 to everyone in the community beginning May 6, 2022.”

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