Grady to open emergency room in South Fulton County

(Left to right) Grady Memorial Hospital CEO John Haupert shakes hands with Fulton Commission Chair Rob Pitts during the ribbon cutting ceremony for Correll Pavilion on Monday March 13, 2023. The 10-story wing will house outpatient surgeries and other non-emergency services at Grady. (Natrice Miller/

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

(Left to right) Grady Memorial Hospital CEO John Haupert shakes hands with Fulton Commission Chair Rob Pitts during the ribbon cutting ceremony for Correll Pavilion on Monday March 13, 2023. The 10-story wing will house outpatient surgeries and other non-emergency services at Grady. (Natrice Miller/

Grady Health System will open a standalone emergency room in Union City, expected in 2026, in partnership with Fulton County, the hospital has announced.

The 24-hour, seven-day-a-week ER will help fill an area south of Interstate 20 that public officials dubbed a “health care desert” in the wake of two hospital closures in 2022.

“As metro Atlanta’s population grows, so does the need for medical care, specifically emergency care in South Fulton,” John Haupert, Grady president and CEO, said in the announcement. “The freestanding emergency department will allow us to serve this community by bringing exceptional care to patients right where they live.

“The residents in this area deserve the same level of quality care available in other areas, and Grady is proud to take this major step toward fulfilling that need.”

The 20,000-square-foot emergency department will be staffed by “board-certified physicians, nurses, and other clinicians,” the news release said. It will have 16 bays to provide adult and pediatric care for serious or life-threatening conditions. Construction is expected to start this fall.

“The facility will include imaging and laboratory services, a pharmacy, and patient and staff support areas,” the news release said. “It will also feature a dedicated ambulance entrance for patients brought in by emergency medical services. A helipad will be on-site for flight transfers to area hospitals.”

The facility is expected to cost $38 million, with close to half of that coming from the county, Fulton County Commission Chair Robb Pitts said.

“What we’re being asked for is about $19 million, which would help with the construction, the capital cost,” he said. “As I understand it, Grady will be bearing the operational costs.”

In 2022 Wellstar Health System closed Atlanta Medical Center — South and its associated East Point hospital, saying they were not financially viable. Regional officials decried the closings, which left Grady Memorial Hospital as the only hospital in Fulton County serving the area south of Interstate 20.

That left residents of the county’s south end with a travel time of up to 40 minutes for emergency care, according to Grady. The nonprofit hospital treated nearly 138,000 patients at its downtown Atlanta emergency department in 2023.

A mix of federal funds and subsidies from Fulton County will pay for the new freestanding emergency room, according to the announcement.

“Everyone in Fulton County deserves access to health care, and no one should die early because of their ZIP code. We are pleased to see Grady is taking action to address the health care desert in South Fulton,” Pitts said in the announcement. “We look forward to seeing this facility get started so it can begin serving the community in the near future.”

The emergency room is to be built on a 40-acre site, which Pitts confirmed will be “in close proximity” to the county’s new Elections Hub & Emergency Operations Center at 5600 Campbellton Fairburn Road, which opened last year.

“Both of those facilities will be a tremendous boost to that part of the county,” he said. The area is sparsely populated now, but Pitts said he expects it to develop rapidly, with medical offices springing up near the ER along with apartments and more.

In January, leaders of Grady, Fulton and DeKalb counties and the Fulton-DeKalb hospital authority inked a new subsidy agreement expected to last 10 years. Fulton County is providing base funding of $43.3 million in 2024, while DeKalb County provides about $19.1 million. Fulton will also pay debt service on Grady’s new surgical center, which opened in 2022.

In coming years, funding will shift and increase based on use of Grady services by each county’s residents and by the federal Consumer Price Index for medical care, which averages 3% annually.

In return, Grady agreed to open two new primary-care outpatient clinics in underserved areas of Fulton County and three in DeKalb, plus create mobile clinics for specific services.

One such clinic opened on Cascade Road in July 2023. The other Fulton County clinic is expected to open this summer at the Lee+White mixed-use center in Atlanta’s West End. Both are south of I-20.

In addition, Morehouse School of Medicine opened a full-service clinic in East Point that Fulton County subsidizes by $1.6 million a year.

Pitts said the emergency room announcement is a partial fulfillment of his promise to area residents of providing “first-class medical care in south Fulton County.” He sees it as a precursor to construction of a full hospital in south Fulton within the next several years.

The county has many big-ticket budget demands, including a proposed new jail for $1.7 billion. But Pitts’ choice would be to prioritize that hospital above a new jail, he said.

An analysis by the AJC showed that when AMC-South closed, the population that was removed from being 15 minutes away from an emergency room was overwhelmingly people with below-average income and 88.7% Black.

A Fulton County study found that health outcomes for racial minority populations are worse than for the White population, Pitts has said. People in Fulton’s south half live an average of five years less than residents of the more affluent north, which has multiple hospitals and associated health infrastructure, he said.