Atrium Health responds to lawsuit: Mecklenburg Medical Group physicians can break away

Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health said it will allow most physicians with Mecklenburg Medical Group to operate independently of its health system after 92 physicians sued to break away from the non-compete agreements, according to The Charlotte Observer.

Mecklenburg Medical, which operates across North and South Carolina, is the largest physicians practice operated by Atrium. In the lawsuit, filed April 2 in Mecklenburg County Superior Court, 92 physicians with the medical group accused Atrium Health of monopolistic and anti-competitive behavior, including refusal to release physicians from their non-compete requirements.

"Though purporting to be a nonprofit institution, Atrium — with its bloated management bureaucracy — has repeatedly complained and contended that it 'loses' millions of dollars on the MMG physicians each year," the suit reads, according to The Charlotte Observer. "In sum, Atrium is acting as the exact opposite of the nonprofit healthcare provider that it claims to be."

The 92 physicians with the medical group hoped the lawsuit would push Atrium to release them from these non-compete restrictions so they could practice independently under a new umbrella named the Mecklenburg Multi-Specialty Group.

Later on April 2, Atrium said in a statement it is surprised and disappointed by the lawsuit because they were in discussions with these physicians as recently as last week.

"Since some of the doctors from Atrium Health's practice known as Mecklenburg Medical Group came to us last October, we have been talking to them about what a stand-alone practice might look like," Atrium said, according to The Charlotte Observer. "We 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."

Atrium, in response to the lawsuit, is still determining how to address the non-compete restrictions. However, Atrium said it plans to continue to own Mecklenburg Medical following the departure of most of the physicians who filed the suit.

Mecklenburg Medical joined Atrium, formerly known as Carolinas HealthCare, in 1993. It employs 104 physicians in several specialties, including internal medicine, dermatology and sleep medicine.

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