Ashley Grady, a hairstylist who lives in East Point, the predominantly Black community where Wellstar closed Atlanta Medical South in spring 2022, has experienced that shift. 

In January, Grady sprained her left foot, aggravating an old fracture, and drove just over 8 miles to Grady Memorial seeking treatment.

After another patient in the emergency room told her that she had been waiting for 28 hours, Grady said, she drove 22 miles north to Wellstar Kennestone Regional Medical Center, in the richer, whiter exurb of Marietta. She said she was seen within a few hours.

“If I’m dying and I just had a car accident, of course I’d want Grady to help,” Grady said. 

“Outside of that, I just wouldn’t.” 

Danielle Hackett, a spokesperson for Grady Memorial, said wait times haven’t increased since Atlanta Medical Center closed.

Doors are boarded up to an entrance of the permanently closed Wellstar Health System Atlanta Medical Center
Doors to Atlanta Medical Center are boarded up.Alyssa Pointer for NBC News

For now, it’s unclear what will become of the 25 acres of downtown real estate occupied by the darkened hull of the former hospital. The Atlanta City Council has voted three times to pause development at the site to preserve the area for projects that serve the community.

“Hospitals can only be built with a certificate of need, but it takes nothing for them to pull out of a community,” said City Council member Marci Collier Overstreet, referring to Georgia’s approval process for certain health facilities. Ideally, she said, they would “need to have a certificate of departure, as well.”

Bracey Harris reported from Jackson, Miss., and J.J. McCorvey from Atlanta.


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