7 physicians to leave CaroMont Medical Group, join team that left Atrium

Seven physicians plan to break away from the CaroMont Medical Group to join Tryon Medical Partners, an independent practice formed by nearly 100 physicians who ditched Atrium Health last year, according to The Charlotte Observer.

The seven physicians from CaroMont Medical Group, the main physician group of Gastonia, N.C.-based CaroMont Health, plan to open a clinic called Tryon Medical Partners–Gaston Dec. 2.

CaroMont has indicated that it plans to enforce the seven physicians' noncompete contract clause, which states the physicians are prohibited from "assisting a competing system" within 20 miles. 

The physicians have filed suit to void their noncompete agreements, arguing that Tryon Medical is neither a hospital nor a health system. 

The suit filed by the seven physicians mirrors one filed in April by the 92 physicians seeking to leave Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health. The 92 physicians with the largest physicians practice operated by Atrium, accused Atrium Health of monopolistic and anticompetitive behavior, including refusal to release physicians from their noncompete agreements. Atrium Health eventually allowed those physicians to operate independently of its health system and they created Tryon Medical Partners.

The seven physicians seeking to break away — David Locklear, MD; Jessica Kafer, MD;  Michael McCartney, MD; Gregory O’Leary, MD; Derek Reed, DO; Caroline Stephens, MD;-, and Brian Wysong, MD  — are part of CaroMont's South Point Family Practice in Gastonia. 

"Since being notified of the physicians' intent to resign their positions just three weeks ago, CaroMont Health has fully cooperated in discussions with them and their attorney until this afternoon," the hospital system told the Observer. "We have presented several fair and reasonable options that would allow the physicians to join Tryon Medical Partners, continue to practice in Gaston County and fulfill their contractual obligations. Unfortunately, all attempts to negotiate have been declined."

Physicians breaking off from hospital systems goes against a nationwide trend of hospital consolidation, according to the report. 

But, Tryon Medical Partner CEO Dale Owen, MD, told the Observer that he expects even more physicians to leave their systems.

"This is our goal. This is our mission," he said. "And that’s to free physicians from hospital systems so they can take care of patients in the most efficient, cost-efficient and value-based way possible."

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