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A high-profile lawsuit against Atrium Health comes to an end

Atrium Health’s flagship hospital in Dilworth. Tryon Medical Partners, a group of about 90 doctors breaking away from Atrium Health’s Mecklenburg Medical Group, on Monday announced the addresses for their eight offices in the Charlotte region.
Atrium Health’s flagship hospital in Dilworth. Tryon Medical Partners, a group of about 90 doctors breaking away from Atrium Health’s Mecklenburg Medical Group, on Monday announced the addresses for their eight offices in the Charlotte region. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

A group of doctors who took the unusual step of suing Atrium Health to enable them to break away from the Charlotte-based hospital system dropped their case Friday.

In April, about 90 physicians in Atrium's Mecklenburg Medical Group practice sued to get out of Atrium non-compete restrictions so they could practice independently. Friday's action formally ended the litigation in the wake of Atrium announcing in April that it would end employment agreements with the physicians on Sept. 1.

A spokesman for the doctors could not immediately be reached for comment.

A statement issued by Atrium said the system has been working for the past several months with the doctors forming the stand-alone practice, which will be called Tryon Medical Partners.

The statement said letters will be sent to patients "to provide the information they need to make decisions about their medical care following this transition."

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The doctors have said they will separate from Atrium on Aug. 31 and begin serving patients Sept 4.

The split is a rarity in Charlotte and elsewhere, as the trend nationally has been for hospitals and insurance companies to gobble up independent practices.

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Atrium acquired Mecklenburg Medical Group, one of its best-known practices, in 1993. The group's specialties include cardiology, dermatology, pulmonology and sleep medicine.

In their suit, the doctors accused Atrium of monopolistic and anti-competitive behavior, including ordering doctors in most instances to refer patients needing further care to Atrium-owned or managed facilities.

Atrium has said it remains an attractive employer that continues to hire talented workers, and it is not aware of any other doctors groups with plans to leave. It has also said its physician turnover rate is below national figures.

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