Atlanta trauma center closing, Memorial Health doctors concerned about patient volume

Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 6:09 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Memorial Health doctors are concerned about the volume of patients they may receive after learning a fellow level one trauma center in Atlanta is closing its doors.

Officially closing in November, Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center stopped taking new patients just one week ago.

“Is it going to stress the system? Absolutely.”

A level one trauma center, like Memorial Health, is equipped to handle the most life-threatening situations.

“We have an OR on stand by with nobody in it and staff ready and waiting to go.”

Chief of Trauma Dr. James Dunne says with the Atlanta Medical Center owned by Wellstar closing that leaves only one trauma one center in Atlanta. The others are in Augusta and Macon, plus our local one in Savannah.

{DR. JAMES DUNNE, CHIEF OF TRAUMA}

“Any patient south of the city that would normally have gone into the city are now going to Macon,” Cheif of Trauma Dr. James Dunne said.

Meaning patients that would have gone to Macon, may now come here.

“That’s going to overrun Macon very easily and we’re already pulling patients from outside of our region as it is.”

This challenge is coupled with the highest number of people coming into the Memorial Health emergency room ever.

“We’re already very busy as it is right now. I mean we’re at 4800 traumas a year. That’s in the top one percentile in the country for trauma centers.”

One of his biggest worries ambulance arrival times. Dr. Dunne says the goal is to get a severe trauma patient to the hospital in one hour and worries, with the extra travel time, it will take much longer.

“It all depends on what center is available to be able to take those patients and that will have an impact on mortality and morbidity. No questions asked.”

He says he hasn’t seen the effects of the Atlanta Medical Center closing yet but expects that trickle-down effect to begin soon.

As for how many patients we’re talking about, Memorial says Wellstar’s trauma center handled just as many, if not more trauma patients than Memorial currently does.