Seven Gaston County docs file suit in hopes of leaving CaroMont for Tryon Medical

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Tryon Medical Partners, a physician practice based in Charlotte, said it is adding seven family practice doctors currently with CaroMont Medical Group Inc.’s South Point Family Practice in neighboring Gaston County. The seven doctors serve more than 20,000 patients. They provided their 90-day resignation notices with Gastonia-based CaroMont Health on Aug. 23, but are expected to now work in their present posts through Dec. 1, says Dr. Dale Owen, CEO of Tryon Medical Partners.

The physicians are suing CaroMont in N.C. Superior Court, contending the hospitals’ efforts to block their move violates their employment agreements. That agreement prevents CaroMont physicians from moving to competing health care systems without a significant break, but it should not apply to independent practices such as Tryon Medical, Owen says.

“It is all about controlling physicians and their referral patterns,” Owen said in an interview. “These are seven well-respected long-term physicians who want to keep seeing patients locally and they are very entrenched within their community. We are excited to help support them in Gaston County.”

CaroMont says it presented “several fair and reasonable options that would allow the physicians to join Tryon Medical Partners, continue to practice in Gaston County and fulfill their contractual obligations,” according to a statement. “Unfortunately, all attempts to negotiate have been declined.”

The system says it was surprised by the lawsuit, but remains “committed to finding a solution that is best for all parties involved, most importantly, our patients.”

Tryon was formed in mid-2018 by about 90 doctors who had worked for Atrium Health-owned Mecklenburg Medical Group. Since the departure, Tryon physicians have retained more than 95% of their patients, Owen says. Tryon is Mecklenburg’s biggest primary-care practice with 300 employees and eight offices.

While most Tryon physicians are in Mecklenburg County, Owen says there is no plan to shift referrals from CaroMont to Charlotte’s dominant hospital systems, Novant Health and Atrium. He said efforts to meet directly with CaroMont executives, including President Chris Peek, were rebuffed.

The seven family practice physicians include David Locklear, Jessica Kafer, Michael McCartney, Gregory O’Leary, Derek Reed, Caroline Stephens and Brian Wysong.


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