Atrium Health faces new civil lawsuit from group of local anesthesiologists

Atrium Health faces new civil lawsuit from group of local anesthesiologists

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte's largest hospital system is facing a new civil lawsuit that includes some pretty bold accusations.

A group of local anesthesiologists is suing Atrium Health after losing its nearly 40-year-long contract with the hospital.

The 45-page lawsuit filed this week makes claims of a corrupt scheme that involved stolen trade secrets and confidential information, and putting competition over patient safety.

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In its lawsuit, Southeast Anesthesiology claims that in 2017 Atrium introduced it to a consultant hired to review anesthesiology services within the hospital system.

Southeast said it shared highly confidential information and trade secrets to help with the evaluation.

In the lawsuit, Southeast claims Atrium secretly helped that consultant start a competing practice called Scope Anesthesia and was eventually awarded the contract.

Southeast goes on to claim it was retribution because Southeast “resisted the system’s effort to impose cheaper, substandard care on their patients.”

The area's top hospital went through a major rebrand last month, changing its name from Carolinas Healthcare System to Atrium Health.

Early this month, the hospital system was hit with a class-action lawsuit accusing it of overcharging thousands of patients and anti-competitive conduct.

Two years ago, the U.S. Justice Department sued Carolinas Heathcare System for the same thing. That case is still ongoing.

Atrium Health sent Channel 9 a response about the lawsuit, saying the claims are without merit.

It maintains that during negotiations the group's parent company refused several contract provisions that would have ensured the safety of its patients.

Full Atrium statement: 

"Atrium Health has received a complaint filed by Mednax, the corporate parent company of Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants. We believe the claims Mednax has made are without merit, and this court filing is an attempt to distract us from the true issues at hand. Unfortunately, taking their partners, as well as their very own physicians to court is common practice for Mednax."

"To provide some perspective, in recent days, Mednax has started a campaign to spread false and misleading information online and in other advertisements about Atrium Health’s decision to transition anesthesia service providers. We think it is important to set the record straight, and reassure the public that we remain true to our priorities, now and always – to provide the highest quality care to every patient who walks through our doors. It’s also important to note that Mednax is a for-profit company that purchased Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants for $200 million in 2010, and is beholden to its stockholders. Tactics like this are typical to companies trying to protect a sizeable book of business."

"Decisions like switching our anesthesia services provider are not ones we make lightly. We have been working since 2014 on addressing our anesthesia services program, and have been diligently negotiating for 18 month with Mednax. In the latest negotiations, the Mednax CEO refused several contract provisions that would have ensured the safety of our patients and communities we are privileged to serve. This language would have protected Atrium Health and the public from Mednax anesthesiologists walking off the job due to a previous dispute and conflict with Mednax, as nearly happened this past July 2017. Ultimately, Atrium Health wasn’t comfortable in partnering with a company that has workforce instability demonstrated by events like this, among other issues, and whose definition of patient safety is so drastically different than ours."

"Atrium Health is committed more than ever to our patients and local communities. We have never compromised on quality and safety, and we never will."

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