Atrium Health releases 90 physicians looking to break away

Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health said April 25 it will grant the request of a group of physicians looking to separate and end their employment agreements with the health system Sept. 1, according to The Charlotte Observer.

In an emailed statement to Becker's Hospital Review April 25, Atrium confirmed it will release a group of roughly 90 Mecklenburg Medical Group physicians from their noncompete agreements, effective Sept. 1. The physicians will continue practicing as part of the health system until Aug. 31.

"While we were hopeful that our many months of discussions would lead to an acceptable solution for everyone involved, we will not seek to prevent these physicians from forming a standalone practice," the health system told Becker's.

Atrium said it will also offer the physicians new employment agreements "in the hopes they remain at Atrium Health and their MMG practice … and join the other 1,900 physicians who provide care for our patients," the health system told Becker's.

The group of roughly 90 Mecklenburg Medical Group physicians filed a lawsuit against Atrium April 2, arguing the health system engaged in monopolistic and anticompetitive behavior. Atrium said the same day it would allow the physicians to leave the organization. On April 16, the physicians filed a complaint against the health system with the North Carolina Medical Board, alleging the health system violated board regulations by intentionally misleading patients.

"We are pleased that today Atrium Health appears to have granted the request by Mecklenburg Multispecialty Group's 90 doctors to operate independently of Atrium Health and release the doctors from the non-compete provisions of their contracts," Mecklenburg Medical Group said in a statement, obtained by Becker's. "We hope to work together with Atrium Health to make this transition as smooth as possible and avoid any inconvenience to patients and staff."

Atrium acquired Mecklenburg Medical Group in 1993, according to The Charlotte Observer. In a statement to the publication, the physicians said their attorneys will meet with Atrium's lawyers to further assess the situation.

Atrium Health CEO Eugene Woods told The Charlotte Observer the health system is in the process of hiring roughly 20 physicians to help fill the vacant positions left by physicians planning to leave Mecklenburg Medical Group. The health system also previously offered to give employees who choose to say a bonus of up to 10 percent of their salary if they remain through the end of the year.

"We feel for our staff, and our first concern was making sure that they feel that we're with them," Mr. Woods told the publication. "We offered them retention bonuses because some of them were scared about what the future is going to be."

To access The Charlotte Observer report, click here.

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