— Press Release

ICYMI: Ambulance response time to worsen with closure of Atlanta Medical Center’s emergency department 

AMC’s emergency department shut down yesterday and the hospital will close on Nov 1 — the sixth hospital to close under Brian Kemp’s watch

ATLANTA – This week, the AJC reported on Atlanta and south Fulton County’s dire ambulance response time, which was an average of 28 minutes – far longer than the nine minute industry standard. The area was already struggling with dangerously long response times when AMC South closed its doors in the summer because of Brian Kemp’s refusal to expand Medicaid. Now, with residents facing “a crisis point,” things are set to get worse after the Atlanta Medical Center closed its emergency department yesterday morning, further decreasing the number of available hospital beds and driving up wait times.

WATCH: Georgians react to news that the Atlanta Medical Center will shut down.

Georgia is one of only 12 states that has refused to expand Medicaid. Under Brian Kemp’s disastrous record for Georgians’ health, Georgia is on track to lose six hospitals since 2019 alone—with three closing their doors during a pandemic. Georgians in need of a Level I trauma center, who would have been taken to Atlanta Medical Center, could now be forced to make the excessively longer route to Macon if Grady Hospital cannot take the case. 

Highlights from the AJC’s article can be read below:

AJCCalls to 911, but no ambulance to help? Grady woes impact south Fulton
By Dylan Jackson
October 13, 2022

In the first half of 2022, residents in the area who dialed 911 waited an average 28 minutes for a Grady ambulance to arrive, according to county data reviewed by The Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

“If you look at national standards, 30 min response times are not acceptable,” said South Fulton City Fire Chief Chad Jones.

Grady’s ambulance struggles have collided with other strains on the metro area’s healthcare system. The May closure of Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center South in East Point has forced Grady ambulances to drive longer distances to deliver patients to increasingly crowded emergency rooms. These problems will only get worse after Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center downtown closes next month.

Grady officials said they are trying to address the shortage of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics through wage increases. Grady, in a statement, also echoed the concerns of fire chiefs, who said that fewer emergency room beds in the area will increase patient wait times. While AMC is open until Nov. 1, the hospital’s emergency room has already stopped accepting ambulance patients.

“These hold times will only increase with the closure of AMC,” a Grady spokesperson said.

The closure of AMC South in May, Fulton County’s only hospital with an emergency room south of I-20, has meant each month hundreds patients in the area must now be transported to hospitals further away.

In the three months leading up to the closure of AMC South’s emergency room in April, Grady ambulances transported 870 South Fulton patients to the now shuttered hospital.

The closure of AMC’s downtown emergency room means one less option. AMC and Grady have been the only Level 1 trauma centers in the Atlanta area.

Even with Governor Brian Kemp’s promised $130 million cash infusion to Grady to build an additional 185 hospital beds, many officials, including Grady Health System CEO John Haupert, see it as an imperfect fix. AMC’s closure will mean the loss of 460 hospital beds.

With fewer hospitals and lower capacity, Grady and metro healthcare officials say ambulance crews are increasingly having to idle outside emergency room entrances until there’s availability for their patients. In turn, this means fewer ambulances available to respond to medical calls, increasing response times.

The AJC’s full article can be read here.