Dem. Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams outside of Atlanta Medical Center Tuesday, Nov. 1, hours after the hospital officially closed for good at midnight. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

The closure of Atlanta Medical Center is currently a political lightning rod with 7 days until Election Day. Atlanta Medical Center officially closed at the stroke of midnight but dozens of supporters rallied outside of the 100-plus-year-old hospital Tuesday morning as Georgia Department of Transportation workers methodically displaced the signage on Boulevard NE in Old Fourth Ward.

“People are going to get sick whether they can afford to or not,” said Stacey Abrams outside of Atlanta Medical Center Tuesday, November 1, 2022. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

There had been numerous protests outside of Atlanta Medical Center the past few months following an announcement that Wellstar Health System, an Atlanta-based health care giant, decided to close the only other Level 1 trauma center (Grady Hospital being the other) in Atlanta. 

“It’s Tuesday morning and there is nowhere to go in Metro Atlanta for emergency medical care,” Stacey Abrams said. She, Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman, Atlanta NAACP President Richard Rose, Georgia NAACP President Gerald Griggs, national civil rights activist Porch’se Miller and others held a press conference across the street from Atlanta Medical Center. “The only state that will be represented in the conversation where there is nowhere to go is Georgia because Brain Kemp is the governor of Georgia.” 

Georgia NAACP President Gerald Griggs (center) and Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman (right) were on hand for the rally outside of Atlanta Medical Center Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Wellstar Health System has made it known that finances are the reason for closing the hospital. Abrams believes there would have been more than enough money to save Atlanta Medical Center if healthcare was a priority for the Kemp administration. “The Atlanta Medical Center survived 120 years but could not survive four years under Brian Kemp,” she said. 

The line had gone viral after having originated during their most recent debate Sunday on WSB-TV night. Abrams added that hospital wait times have gone up throughout Georgia and the number of trauma centers have gone down during Kemp’s time as governor. “I am running for governor because the governor of Georgia is too mean, too cruel and too cheap to bring our money home. When you vote this week, vote like your lives depend on it.”

More than 1.6 million Georgia voters had cast early ballots as of Tuesday morning, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

“It’s a sad day and it’s a sad day that did not have to happen,” Shipman said. “Lets remember the owner of this site, Wellstar, is a not-for-profit, but instead they made a decision of profits over people.”

Wellstar Health System reported losses of more than $100 million per year at Atlanta Medical Center. 

“There is an election next Tuesday and I pray healthcare is at the top of the ballot.”

Members of the Party for Socialism & Liberation’s Georgia office were also in attendance. The grassroots organization was one of the first to protest outside of Atlanta Medical Center more than two months ago. 

The loss of Atlanta Medical Center leaves Old Fourth Ward and neighboring areas without a hospital within a few miles. That remains a problem for a city with the level of crime and vehicular accidents as Atlanta. “This is not a partisan issue,” said Griggs. “Black and brown communities will suffer because of the loss of adequate healthcare.” 

Abrams reiterated the point of the hospital closure not being solely an issue for the poor. “People are going to get sick whether they can afford to or not,” she said. 

The WellStar Atlanta Medical Center signage was being taken down during the rally Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Medicaid expansion remains a hot topic during debates between Abrams and Kemp, as well as during the one and only debate between Senator Raphael Warnock and his opponent Herschel Walker. Rose believes the issues boil down to one simple question: “Does Georgia want to see the people, all of the people or not,” he asked. “Medicaid expansion would not have saved the closing of Atlanta Medical Center, but it’s an absolute slap in the face to the city,” he said.  

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...