Business

Atrium Health slams firm in internal memo

Atrium Health's Carolinas Medical Center campus.
Atrium Health's Carolinas Medical Center campus. deroberts@charlotteobserver.com

Atrium Health criticized a firm that provides anesthesiologists to a majority of its Charlotte-area hospitals in a memo to employees Wednesday, the latest in the feud between the two companies.

Charlotte-based Atrium sent the memo to about 300 of its area employees to emphasize its previously announced plans to replace the firm, Mednax, with another company. In recent weeks, Mednax "has communicated misleading and incorrect information about our ongoing plans for anesthesia services at Atrium Health," the memo says.

The spat between Atrium and Mednax has spilled into public view since Atrium moved to replace Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants, whose parent is Mednax, with Scope Anesthesia of North Carolina starting in July. As the dispute unfolded, Southeast has taken out full-page ads in the Observer, touting the quality of Southeast’s physicians and noting the company has served the community for nearly four decades.

The memo, from Atrium Chief Operating Officer Ken Haynes and Chief Physician Executive Roger Ray, says Atrium is reconfirming that it has rejected a final proposal from Mednax. The move was based on Mednax’s refusal to make its services more affordable for Atrium's patients, as well as Mednax's rejection of Atrium's request to allow its anesthesiologists to continue working at Atrium facilities.

Employment agreements restrict Mednax anesthesiologists from doing so, Atrium, formerly known as Carolinas HealthCare, has noted.

"Since 2014, due to ongoing concerns we have had with Mednax, Atrium Health has transitioned away from Mednax to other anesthesia providers in four other Atrium Health facilities," the memo says. "Each of these transitions has been seamless and maintained or enhanced quality and patient satisfaction."

Florida-based Mednax did not respond to a request for comment. Mednax subsidiary American Anesthesiology acquired Southeast in 2010, but it has remained in Charlotte ever since.

Scope Anesthesia is also based in Charlotte and was founded this year by Dr. Thomas Wherry.

Before winning the contract, Wherry served as consultant last year to Atrium, a role he said involved looking for efficiencies in the area of anesthesiology. In December, Atrium awarded him the anesthesiology contract, said Wherry, who moved to Charlotte from Maryland this year to run the new operation.

UNC Health Care CEO Dr. William Roper discusses some of the things he learned during a recent failed attempt to merge with Atrium Health as he speaks during an interview in Chapel Hill, NC, on March 14, 2018.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts
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