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EAST POINT, Ga. - A metro Atlanta community is outraged after Wellstar Health System said it is closing down another one of its facilities at the start of 2024.
Wellstar will make its exit from East Point on Jan. 12 - shutting down the urgent care center that was once Atlanta Medical Center South.
The company says it will invest $5 million over five years to increase services and expand the size and capacity of the neighboring Southside East Point clinic.
But New Georgia Healthcare Director Kierra Stanford called the move "ridiculous" and "disrespectful."
Stanford says the closures have disproportionally impacted poor and working-class families - the majority of whom are Black.
State Sen. Donzella James, who lives in East Point, called the situation a matter of "life or death. And it could be death if we don't get some immediate help."
"We can’t go all the way to Grady on some emergencies," she said. "Even ambulances take 30, 40 minutes."
State Sen. Donzella James
James introduced legislation earlier in 2023 to allow the cities of East Point and South Fulton to form their own hospital authorities, which would give them oversight of what would come next.
"All we need to do is from this authority. We have already gone through the resolutions. We have already gone through the appeals," she said.
But Stafford thinks that would be letting Wellstar off the hook.
"It’s not lost on us that Wellstar is accountable for this decision. At the very least, they should be able to lend a hand to the city in these types of situations," she said.
In a press release, Wellstar said it is committed to supporting all EPHC team members through this transition, offering them positions at other Wellstar locations. If any impacted Wellstar team member wishes to continue serving the East Point community, collaboration between Wellstar and Southside’s human resource teams will provide opportunities at Southside Medical Center locations.
FOX 5 reached out to Wellstar to see if we could speak with their executives. That request was denied.