Medical group sues Trinity Health for trying to hire away clinicians

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Anesthesia Associates of Ann Arbor (Mich.) has sued Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health in state court, alleging the health system ignored non-compete agreements and improperly tried to hire away clinicians.

The lawsuit alleges Trinity "has chosen to ignore A4's valid non-competes and its own non-solicitation obligations and has recently attempted to recruit our certified registered nurse anesthetists," according to a statement to Becker's Hospital Review from Anesthesia Associates of Ann Arbor.

Anesthesia Associates of Ann Arbor, or A4, is the exclusive anesthesiology provider at six of Trinity's hospitals, and the anesthesiology group recently terminated its agreements with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Priority Health.

In a lawsuit filed July 23, Trinity alleges A4 breached its contract with the health system by terminating the insurer contracts. Trinity claims its contract with A4 requires the anesthesiology group to remain in network with the payers to ensure Trinity's patients are fully covered by their health insurance when they require anesthesia at its hospitals.

Trinity contends it needs to employ many of A4's anesthesiologists to ensure patients will have anesthesia services covered at Trinity's hospitals. However, A4 is refusing to release physicians and CRNAs from their non-competes.

Trinity is seeking a court order requiring A4 to release their physician employees practicing at Trinity's hospitals from any restrictions on their employment. The health system is also seeking damages related to the alleged breach of contract and a declaratory judgment finding that the anesthesiology group's noncompetition clauses in their agreements with clinicians violate federal and Michigan antitrust laws to the extent that they are used to prevent anesthesiologists from being employed by Trinity.

According to A4, Trinity is ignoring the non-compete agreements and has tried to hire away clinicians. The anesthesiology group said it had no choice but to sue Trinity.

"We are disappointed in how Trinity is handling themselves during these discussions given the work our physicians and CRNAs provide and given the relationship we have had with Trinity," A4 CEO Gregory Bock said in a statement to Becker's. "Now, the issue must be handled by the courts as this is the only way that A4 can protect its physicians and CRNAs and continue to serve patients and remain focused on exceptional anesthetic care."

A4 is the largest provider of anesthesia and pain management services in Michigan. Trinity Health owns 92 hospitals and operates healthcare facilities across 22 states. 

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