ATLANTA — Wellstar Health System says the federal complaints alleged against it negate transparency in its efforts to save its Atlanta Medical Center.
In a statement, Wellstar calls the recently announced complaints "outrageous and false," asserting the health system did not discriminate against patients and that it attempted to avoid the closure of AMC.
Its response comes after Georgia lawmakers announced the cohort would be filing a civil rights complaint and another that would challenge the health system's nonprofit status.
During last week's news conference, lawmakers alleged Wellstar's recent closure of two metro Atlanta facilities was "no more and no less than healthcare redlining on the part of Wellstar."
The health system recently closed down AMC, leaving the metro area with Grady Memorial Hospital as the sole Level 1 trauma center. AMC closed on Nov. 1, 2022, leaving the burden of the highest level of trauma care to Grady for nearly three months until Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville received its upgraded status.
Before AMC's closure, Wellstar also shuttered its emergency room facility in East Point, leaving a lack of emergency room hospitals south of I-20 in Fulton County.
When Wellstar closed its metro Atlanta facilities, it said it was because it was too costly to keep them afloat. In its statement, it said it is "the largest provider of charity care in the state of Georgia."
The health system said since February 2020 when it announced a formal search for a partner or buyer they were public about the work it took to sustain its operations.
"They were multi-faceted and included the age of AMC's buildings, the fact that utilization was less than half of the bed capacity and a lack of public and private support," Wellstar's statement read.
Despite seeing interest from potential partners none followed through, Wellstar said.
"None of these facts were presented or discussed in the March 8 press conference," a spokesperson for Wellstar said in a statement.
The complaints are being filed with the federal Department of Health and Human Services on the grounds that the hospital closings inordinately impacted communities of color. It also questions Wellstar's nonprofit status as it points out that the hospital system is seemingly considering a new facility in a wealthy and mostly white suburb of Augusta.
"We are focused and committed to continue serving diverse communities throughout the region and providing them the specialized programs and resources they need," the statement read.
Read the full statement below.
The suggestion that Wellstar Health System in any way discriminated against patients and communities is outrageous and false. In fact, we are the largest provider of charity care in the state of Georgia and among the top 10 providers nationwide, bringing expert, compassionate health services to those who need us most.
Since February 2020, when Wellstar publicly announced a formal search for a partner or buyer to find a sustainable path forward, we have been open, honest and transparent about the challenges we faced. They were multi-faceted and included the age of AMC’s buildings, the fact that utilization was less than half of the bed capacity and a lack of public and private support. We connected with healthcare organizations locally, regionally and across the country. Potential partners expressed interest, but ultimately none were interested. None of these facts were presented or discussed in the March 8 press conference.
We are focused and committed to continue serving diverse communities throughout the region and providing them the specialized programs and resources they need.