People from all walks of life are grieving the loss of Atlanta Medical Center, formerly known as Georgia Baptist. Wellstar Health System closed the nearly 500-bed hospital on Nov. 1, leaving a large void in Old Fourth Ward for people who either worked or were patients at the hospital.
Capital B Atlanta spoke with four people affected personally by the loss of AMC. From a resident who felt like AMC was a second home to a former employee who worked there for 11 years, the ripple effects extend beyond the closure.
Johnni Jones, former AMC employee, Decatur
I was dispatched to [Wellstar Cobb] on Oct. 14 because the ER [at Atlanta Medical Center] closed that Friday. I had been employed there for 11 years. They said I could start on Monday, which was Oct. 17, so Oct. 14 was my last day in that building. Being without a car, I had to travel two hours on the MARTA transit. It was terrible. I had to ride an hour and a half to get there, and then the walk from the bus stop to the hospital was about 10 to 15 minutes. It was not what you want to call accessible for the number of years of service I did with Wellstar. They inconvenienced me, totally. Me and others, and even the ones with cars, traveling an hour and a half to two hours to Kennestone, Spalding, and these other Wellstar locations. Wellstar closed all the facilities in the low [income] Black communities.
Working at Cobb was totally different. It was more cases. Cobb had about 75 cases a day, and most of their cases were a lot of children because they were doing some TikTok thing and they were burning themselves. I wasn’t even working in the area I was accustomed to working — general surgery. I would leave home at 4 in the morning and wouldn’t get home until maybe 9:30 at night. And I was praying and asking God to do something for me. Because I served my community. I served the position I had faithfully, and I needed something. And one day, low and behold, I got this call from Grady, and I accepted.
It’s been lovely. It’s closer, and with Grady being federally funded, you deal with all walks of life. It’s beautiful. I get to work on time. They are taking on more emergency cases, more traumas [because of AMC’s closure]. It’s still a good work experience because of the closeness.
I would say to Wellstar, “Shame on you. How dare you. … You took our livelihood away from us. You made life miserable for the people who served that community.”
Angie Alford, former patient, Old Fourth Ward
I live about two blocks from Atlanta Medical, and it was close to me. If I get sick, I could walk to the hospital and I could walk back home. If they kept me, I could still walk back home. So [the closure] affected me a lot. I have COPD, high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, and gout.
I would be there probably about 10 or 12 times a year. I’ve been really busy because my daughter had a major stroke, so I’ve been at the hospital with her a lot. She could have went to that hospital if it was still open. She ended up going way over to Piedmont hospital.
Other than that, I’ve been sick enough to where I feel like I need to go to the hospital, but I don’t go. I just take over-the-counter medicine until I get better because I don’t really know how I would get to the hospital. I just know how to catch the bus to go Downtown. I don’t know how to catch the train.
I don’t feel good about it, because I might not be taking the proper medicine I really need, or I might not be taking enough. [It scares me] a lot. My neighbors are saying the same thing, and all the homeless people around here don’t have anywhere to go, so it’s affecting the whole neighborhood.
I don’t go to Grady [hospital] a lot. I went a long time ago, and we were in the waiting room so long. This lady told me she went to Grady and she was there for 18 hours, and she still hadn’t been seen. It’s germs out here, no one wants to sit in no hospital for 18 hours.
[Wellstar] could have got some help and kept the hospital open, and thought about the people in the neighborhood, and the elderly people, homeless people. We needed a hospital here.
Shenita Binns, activist, west Georgia
My mother was sent to Atlanta Medical Center due to a brain injury from a stroke. The last time she was there, it was around 2021. Her first time was in 2013 — she’s had two strokes. She passed away last year.
I felt like their care of her was good as far as addressing her trauma. We’re from the west Georgia area. The first time she had a stroke, she was sent to Tanner Medical in Carrollton, and she had to be sent to Grady because they didn’t have a stroke unit. She was at Grady for 30 days, then she spent some time at Atlanta Medical. The second time, she spent the majority of her time at Atlanta Medical Center because Grady was at capacity. They did tell us that, most likely, she wouldn’t recover. [They said] she probably would never be able to speak again. What I liked about Atlanta Medical was that even though they gave us the worst prognosis, they continued to provide expert level care.
She ended up doing everything they said she wouldn’t do again. She spoke. She never regained her physical ability to mobilize, [but] she never lost her understanding, she never lost her memory. She remembered birthdays, phone numbers, recipes. So I applaud Atlanta Medical, and it was tragic to see them close, knowing the type of care that my mother received.
Being from west Georgia, there’s only three trauma centers they’ll send you to. There’s one in Cedartown, which is always at capacity, and then there’s Grady and Atlanta Medical.
With Atlanta Medical gone, people are gonna die. People who would not have died otherwise, or possibly because I know God controls all. But with that care not being there, the level of care that AMC provided, it’s devastation.
Korrie Renee, doula, Marietta
I’ve worked in Atlanta Medical from 2019 up until it closed. I did a large number of births at AMC. There’s less accessibility to water births in the city now because AMC, North Fulton, and the Atlanta Birth Center are the three places in the city, facility-wise, that you can go to for a water birth. AMC closing has impacted that.
If [the client] left the birth center and they had to be transferred, the midwife would go with them to AMC and oversee the remainder of the birth. Atlanta Medical was literally like, “Oh, we’re closing”… it’s kind of a scramble if there’s a need for a hospital transfer. That’s what’s happening with birth center clients.
I guess people have adjusted, but some people choose not to have a water birth because they can’t get to North Fulton. They may not be able to get into the birth center because of their insurance. The birth center only takes Amerigroup insurance as far as Medicaid.
We are blessed that as doulas, we can go wherever they need to go.
The closure wasn’t so much of a shocker for me because of what I saw going on in the hospital. Repairs were definitely needed. You could kind of just see that, “Man this hospital is kind of struggling.” So when I heard it, I thought about the impact it would have on the community. But my hope is that they build it back so that it can last instead of 100 years, it can last 200 to 300 years, so people can have a nice place to have their babies and be taken care of.
I [also] think about the influx. Many of these facilities are going to have to figure out how to accommodate these new bodies they didn’t have to accommodate before. It’s better when people have the space to give adequate care. When you limit the number of beds available, that’s when we start to rush people.
Luckily for me, my work spread out right before the closure, which is a little interesting. I had so many births at AMC. I was at AMC so much, the nurses knew me by name, I knew them by name. My clients can tell you! Toward the end, I just started getting more clients that were spread out at the various hospitals around the city, so the closure didn’t have an impact on my ability to work. And the doctors, they found other places.
Even though I’ve had clients go into these hospitals they’re unfamiliar with, they’ve had exceptional experiences. There’s so many other facilities and that’s the thing I think doulas can help with — guiding women on where they can go and still have the birth they desire.
I just ask to please make sure they put something else back. If you tear up a tree, you plant a tree. I feel the same way about the hospital.