- Atrium Health agreed to let more than 90 doctors with its Mecklenburg Medical Group separate from the hospital system after the employees filed a lawsuit to negate non-compete contract clauses, The Charlotte Observer reported.
- The civil suit, filed Monday in Mecklenburg County Superior Court, claims the system formerly known as Carolinas HealthCare engaged in monopolistic and anti-competitive practices including non-compete restrictions and compelling doctors to refer patients to Atrium-affiliated facilities if they needed further care.
- The lawsuit claims Atrium has a "bloated management bureaucracy" and "is acting as the exact opposite of the nonprofit healthcare provider that it claims to be.” Atrium told the Observer it "worked hard to find a solution that would be mutually agreeable to everyone — and most importantly would ensure that our patients continue to get the best care possible."
The physician revolt comes as Atrium and UNC Healthcare have called an end to months’ long merger talks, citing failure to satisfy mutual organizational goals. The scuttled deal, which would have created a system of more than 50 hospitals and 100,000 employees, comes less than a month after Atrium signed a letter of intent to fold Navicent Health into its system.
The system rebranded itself from Carolinas HealthCare System to align with a wider geographic focus that isn’t tied to a specific U.S. region. Atrium currently operates about 40 hospitals and medical facilities in North and South Carolina.
Atrium’s physician backlash appears at odds with current trends that see more hospitals employing physicians.
From July 2015 to July 2016, hospitals acquired 5,000 physician practices and employed 14,000 physicians, a recent Avalere study shows. The findings update an ongoing study showing a 100% rise in hospital-owned practices and 63% rise in hospital-employed physicians from 2012 to 2016.
The increase occurred in every part of the country and reflects physicians’ struggle to remain independent in a payer environment that favors integrated health systems.