ATLANTA - Atlanta city leaders are setting their sights on future plans for the old Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center building. This comes nearly a year after the facility shut its doors—creating what many in the community consider a healthcare crisis.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Councilwoman Keisha Sean-Waites introduced legislation to turn the vacant building into a multipurpose community center named after the late Congressman John Lewis.
Wellstar Health System’s closing of Atlanta Medical Center last November citing "revenue losses" came with devastating effects on the surrounding community, and accusations of ‘healthcare redlining’ in light of its recent $800 million merger with Augusta University Health System.
- Closure of Wellstar Atlanta Medical puts pressure on area emergency departments
- Wellstar AMC closure leaves metro Atlanta with only one top level trauma center
- Patients still searching for new doctors nearly 1 year after Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center closes
"It leaves us very vulnerable. Grady right now is the only level 1 trauma center in the region," Sean-Waites said.
While the city moratorium effectively preventing any redevelopment of the property extended through October, the councilwoman says she wants to give the former hospital facility new purpose that would benefit residents in the area.
"I am thrilled to introduce, or re-introduce, legislation for the John Lewis Center for Equity and Wellness," she said.
The community wellness center includes plans for transitional housing, a health clinic, mini courtroom and warrant clearing center.
"There’s a drug/alcohol recovery component, as well as a job training facility inside," Sean-Waites said.
Sean-Waites says the proposal also includes space for 100 hotel style short-term emergency rooms to support area hospitals overwhelmed with patients.
"For that reason, this is a lifesaving measure as well," she said.
With early cost estimates around $100 million, Sean-Waites says she wants the healthcare system to gift the property to the city at no cost.
"I believe that this particular facility offers hope to our community, serves and intended need and could possibly serve as a national model for our country," she said.
FOX 5 received a statement from Wellstar Healthcare System:
"We are committed to a thoughtful process to determine the best use for the future of these sites. We continue to talk with members of the community and evaluate potential solutions. We do not currently have plans for the sites and we are hopeful for a solution that benefits the community."
Sean-Waites says she’s hoping corporate and philanthropic donors will help make the proposal a reality. For now, the legislation heads to the Community Health and Human Services Committee for further discussion.