Contact Us

Emory To Expand Midtown Hospital Amid 'Public Health Crisis' Caused By AMC's Closure

Emory University Hospital Midtown is looking to erect temporary hospital space in its parking lot to handle the expected overflow of patients from the pending closure of Atlanta Medical Center.

The loss of a Level 1 Trauma Center could hurt emergency response times in communities, experts say.

Emory filed for a special administrative permit Sept. 30 to erect two modular buildings “in response to the public health crisis created by the sudden closure of Atlanta Medical Center [and] to provide additional hospital space to serve the community,” Emory Healthcare Engineering Management Director Sarah Peek wrote in the application.

The buildings, totaling 4,440 SF, would be in operation for 36 months, according to the documents, and augment the hospital's more than 1M SF of medical space on the Peachtree Street campus. An Emory Healthcare spokesperson declined to comment on the proposed new buildings.

Emory's plans are just the latest reaction by local health officials to Wellstar's planned closure of AMC.

Last month, Wellstar Health System announced plans to shutter its operations at AMC after facing “decreasing revenue and increasing costs for staff and supplies due to soaring inflation." Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, in a previous letter to Wellstar, said the healthcare provider's plans to close would impact low-income residents in the city the most.

The hospital is one of the city's only two Level 1 trauma centers, which provide 24-hour care for serious injuries, including surgery, emergency medicine, radiology, internal medicine, plastic and oral surgery, pediatric and critical care.

Grady Memorial Hospital would be the only Level 1 Trauma facility left in Atlanta following AMC's closure.

Emory University Hospital Midtown, which could be expanding its campus temporarily in response to Atlanta Medical Center's closure.

Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi, whose district covers parts of AMC's campus in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, said all nearby healthcare facilities are having to prep for a spike in demand after Wellstar shutters the city's fourth-largest hospital ranked by patient revenues on Nov. 1, with impacts felt as far out as Cobb County.

“I suspect we'll see a ripple effect, not only in the city, but in the region as well," Farokhi told Bisnow.

Dr. Roger Lewis, an emergency physician affiliated with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services who co-wrote a 2008 paper on the effects of Level 1 trauma center closures on local communities, said one of the biggest impacts is the influx of patients to a region's remaining hospitals.

That surge in new patients has the potential to tax emergency response times and strain hospital capacity, risking the rise in mortality rates, Lewis said.

“If from the time of injury to getting definitive care is greater than an hour, that can lead to more deaths,” Lewis said.

Grady Health System CEO and President John Haupert told 11 Alive last month that emergency room wait times, especially for non-critical issues, will likely rise in area hospitals.

"A lot of that volume from AMC, 55,000 visits a year, is going to end up in the ER here, the ER at Midtown Emory, the ER at Piedmont Atlanta, and add to already strained capacity at the ERs citywide," Haupert told the TV station.

Lewis said Emory's modular buildings will likely be used to treat non-trauma patients, like someone with a broken arm or leg who needs immediate care but whose injuries are not life-threatening, thus freeing up space in the hospital's main emergency and operating rooms.

Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center, which is slated to shut down on Nov. 1.

On Monday, Dickens renewed an executive order halting any permit activity on the 25-acre AMC campus as local officials discuss how the facility should be redeveloped and whether a healthcare component can be preserved there.

“I appreciate the Atlanta City Council’s full partnership in ensuring that the future of the Atlanta Medical Center property is in line with the needs and vision for the Old Fourth Ward community,” Dickens said in a press release. “This moratorium provides the time and space necessary to work with the community, health care providers and other stakeholders to address the impact of this unusually abrupt closure of one of Atlanta’s most important medical centers.”

Wellstar started diverting emergency agencies on Monday to other hospitals before coming to AMC as part of a phase in its overall closure, a move that will have “huge implications not only for Grady, but Piedmont and Northside and Emory, who would have to take up the slack, if you will,” Fulton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Rob Pitts told WSB-TV.

Public officials have been left scrambling to help the hospitals do just that.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced last month that the state would provide $130M to Grady to expand its bed capacity and for other purposes to accommodate the thousands of patients who currently are treated at AMC. DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond recently asked county commissioners to authorize $14M to help expand the intensive care unit and emergency department at Emory Hillandale Hospital in Lithonia.

“Hillandale is strategically located not just for DeKalb but throughout that sector. So by building capacity at Hillandale, we strengthen the healthcare safety net throughout metro Atlanta,” Thurmond told WSB-TV earlier this week. “[AMC's closure] has major implications in terms of impact on quality care for residents of DeKalb, Atlanta and literally throughout the state of Georgia.”