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'Minutes determine life or death': Stacey Abrams visits Macon, blames Kemp for Atlanta hospital closure

The Democratic candidate for governor says her policy of expanding Medicaid coverage could have helped keep Atlanta Medical Center open.

MACON, Ga. — Stacey Abrams visited Central Georgia on Thursday, hosting a news event outside Atrium Health Navicent in downtown Macon.

The Democratic candidate for governor made her case for expanding Medicaid and blamed Gov. Brian Kemp for an Atlanta hospital's upcoming closure. 

Abrams made her point known from the start of the news conference. 

She told reporters her day started at Grady Hospital in Atlanta. Then, the team drove to Daisy Park in downtown Macon near Atrium Health Navicent.

Abrams said she wanted to highlight the distance between two of the remaining level 1 trauma centers on Georgia's I-75 corridor.

"This could be an hour-and-a-half to three-hour drive when often minutes determine life or death," Abrams said Thursday afternoon about the drive.

Come November 1, Atlanta Medical Center will close, leaving Grady Hospital as the only level 1 trauma center in Atlanta. If they're full, the next option is 85 miles down Interstate 75: Atrium Health Navicent in downtown Macon.

"The closure of the Atlanta Medical Center is not simply an Atlanta issue. This is a Macon issue. This is a Middle Georgia issue. This is a Georgia crisis," Abrams said.

She says the closure and added distance can be dangerous for anyone needing immediate trauma services, like stroke or gunshot victims.

"Grady has been overcrowded and severe and on diversion nearly every day, for some reason, over the last few years," Abrams said.

That overcrowding, she said, can place additional pressure on Central Georgia. It's something Atrium Health Navicent is already preparing for. 

In a statement Thursday, the hospital told 13WMAZ they're working with their team on procedures for potential higher patient volumes. They also say they'll make sure doctors have all the resources they need in that event; but Abrams says it's something that shouldn't need to happen.

"We know that Wellstar has said that they could not have saved the hospital simply this year with Medicaid. But what they did not say was it wouldn't have helped. What we do know is that this is a cumulative issue," Abrams said.

She says her stance on Medicaid expansion may not have made been enough to save Atlanta Medical Center, but she says over time, it could have made a difference.

Abrams also addressed how Medicaid may help bring more doctors and nurses to Georgia. She said it would create more opportunities for people to be insured, and more chances for doctors to get paid for their work.

Abrams says her policy would bring billions to the state, helping hospitals stay open, and keeping healthcare workers close to home.

Gov. Kemp's campaign sent 13WMAZ a response to Abrams' visit:

“Wellstar has been abundantly clear that Medicaid expansion would not have prevented the AMC closure. But that doesn’t fit Stacey Abrams’ political narrative, so she’s falsely blaming Governor Kemp. Stacey Abrams may be allergic to the truth, but the Governor will keep fighting for more accessible and affordable healthcare for hardworking Georgians.”

Full statement from Atrium Health Navicent:

"As a Level 1 trauma center, Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center is committed to being a comprehensive regional resource for every aspect of traumatic injury from prevention through rehabilitation. We are communicating with all of our specialists who provide coverage about the possibility of increased patient volumes and ensuring they have the required resources to provide the appropriate level of care to any patient who arrives at our facility in need of care."

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