ATLANTA (WSAV) — Georgia’s public health care system could soon see ripple effects when one of Atlanta’s largest hospitals, the Atlanta Medical Center, shuts down.

WellStar is one of the largest hospital systems in Georgia serving patients in 148 out of 159 counties — nearly one of out every six Georgians.

Wellstar’s Atlanta Medical Center has been a staple here for more than a century. Wellstar took over back in 2016 and recently announced that it will close its doors on Nov. 1.

Dr. Cecil Bennet, former employee of Atlanta Medical Center, has strong ties to Atlanta medical center — a place where his daughter was born.

“I was shocked by the announcement. I have been on staff here for 20 years.” Bennet said. “The first time I became a doctor was at this hospital and so to hear it was closing was a real shock.”

The hospital provides health care for many low-income patients in downtown Atlanta. So, that means metro Atlanta area will only have one trauma center.

Doctors say it puts a strain on that system and if it’s full and if Grady Health System is full, patients will have to be taken to Augusta, Macon or Savannah and those crucial minutes could be a difference between life and death. 

“It’s only one of five trauma centers across the state,” said Dr. Phillip Coule Augusta Health, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer. “Augusta University is also a Level 1. We are concerned that this place additional stress on the remaining trauma centers.”

“One of them is closing which means all trauma has to go to Grady. What does that mean – it means whether you are rich or poor, Caucasian, Black Hispanic, if you are in a major trauma lives are going to be lost because of this decision,” Bennett said. 

Wellstar did not want to go on camera but says it spent $100 million during the pandemic because of a shortage in staff, as well as an increase in supply costs.

Atlanta’s mayor said the city was blindsided by the news and has demanded information about the closure. Some employees — who did not want to go on camera — said this is not the first time WellStar has closed its doors.

A few months ago, a similar shutdown happened at Atlanta Medical Center South.