One year after a critical Atlanta hospital’s closure, activists remain frustrated with Wellstar
Wednesday marked one year since the closure of Wellstar Health System’s Atlanta Medical Center.
The company says it was a financial decision, but people in community say now it’s harder to access health care.
To commemorate the closure, activists with the New Georgia Project Action Fund planted 460 plastic forks to signify the 460 beds the hospital once had patients in.
"It’s almost like a fork in our backs," said activist Lorenzo Williams II. "The closure in general."
One of the group’s lead organizers said access to health care has gotten worse in the community and has caused a ripple effect to other hospitals.
"One year of longer wait times at Grady, one year of impacted traffic," said organizer Kierra Stamford. "Ambulances trying to get to their nearest hospitals."
It is also a year of Grady Memorial Hospital being the only level-one trauma center – a designation for facilities designed to handle the worst of the worst injuries – in a city of nearly a half million.
"Four-hundred-sixty beds, that’s actually a lot," Williams said. "There are people day in and day out kind of struggling to get the car that they need because they can’t fit into another hospital such as Grady."
The group of activists say they’re mourning the center’s loss – but also sending a message to Wellstar executives about the disproportionate racial impact.
"If you look at Wellstar’s other hospitals in the nicer areas, northern areas, even where I used to stay in Douglasville, they have a hospital out there. It looks very, very beautiful," said John-Luke Young, another activist. "Why would you close the East Point and Atlanta Medical Center, in predominantly Black areas?"
Earlier this year, in protest of the closure, the Atlanta City Council passed a moratorium blocking any new development on the land the former hospital sits on.
A Wellstar spokesperson said two weeks ago they "continue to talk with members of the community and evaluate potential solutions."
Stamford said they promised that a year ago too.
"Wellstar said that they’re going to give us a solution, and it’s been a year, and we’ve heard nothing," Stamford said. "So, we’re letting them know we’re still waiting."