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Georgia Campaign Fights to Reopen Local Hospitals

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Friday, March 31, 2023   

Two Atlanta facilities are the latest hospital closures in Georgia, reflecting a trend for more than a decade that's left tens of thousands of people without access to hospital care, both in rural and urban areas. The New Georgia Project's "My Hospital, My Community campaign" is fighting to reopen the WellStar Health System facilities.

At the most recent Level One trauma center that closed, said Kierra Stanford, the campaign's lead organizer, more than half the local population is Black. She noted that Atlanta Medical Center blames the closures on Medicaid not being expanded in Georgia. Policymakers and community leaders have asked federal officials to investigate the shutdowns.

"Fulton County Chair Commissioner and the IRS have filed federal complaints with WellStar Health System," Stanford said. "These federal complaints basically call WellStar out for closing these hospitals under the guise of they didn't have the funds, they were losing profits."

Stanford said local residents have told her they've either missed out on their regular checkups or have to get to other hospitals, where they report longer wait times. A statement from Wellstar's CEO said they had been seeking partnerships to stay open, but were unable to secure them because of AMC's infrastructure and finances.

Stanford explained that the lack of access to quality health care is a growing disparity for communities of color. The New Georgia Project's campaign has also expanded into several rural counties including Calhoun, Randolph and Stewart - where, in some cases, people have to travel many miles to another county or state for primary care.

"And they tell me that they have to drive 40 minutes or an hour into Alabama to go to a hospital," she said. "They tell me that they call the ambulance and it takes two hours for an ambulance to come. And I asked them, 'So, what do you guys do?' And they say, 'People die.'"

In an Associated Press article, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said the WellStar Health System didn't give the city a chance to assist or the advance notice that could have helped prevent closing the hospitals.

Disclosure: New Georgia Project contributes to our fund for reporting on Campaign Finance Reform/Money in Pol, Civic Engagement, Social Justice, Urban Planning/Transportation. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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