Anesthesia provider sued over noncompete clauses

Two hospitals are alleging North American Partners in Anesthesia's noncompete clauses violate antitrust laws, according to lawsuits filed Feb. 26. 

The two hospitals, St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y., and Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are affiliates of Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health and filed lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, respectively. 

The suits allege NAPA uses noncompete clauses to restrict competition and "demand exorbitant payments for critical and understaffed patient services." It also alleges the clauses "impede the free movement of its providers so that it can capture the value of their scarce services'' by prohibiting their anesthesia providers from being employed directly by the hospitals.

North American Partners in Anesthesia is looking for a multimillion-dollar payment to waive the noncompetes, according to court documents. 

"While we are not able to comment further on active litigation, our patients are the priority, and we do all we can to provide timely, high-quality care," a spokesperson for Trinity Health said in a statement shared with Becker's. 

"We have and will continue to provide safe and quality anesthesia care to our patients and remain committed to our anesthesia clinicians," a NAPA spokesperson said in a statement shared with Becker's. "We believe there is no merit to their claims and are prepared to defend against their allegations and seek appropriate relief for the hospitals' actions in the judicial system. Because we are now in active litigation with the hospitals, we cannot provide further responses or comments."

Noncompetes have been the subject of scrutiny recently as some states look to reform their legislation. 

"Many large health systems have a footprint that spans several states," Marsha Haley, MD, a clinical assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Pittsburgh, told Becker's in August. "If a physician is let go or leaves the practice, this requires the physician to move a long distance to meet the noncompete clause. Given the size and vertical integration of health systems, they are in no danger of losing a significant number of patients to the departing physician. The physician, however, is now required to move a great distance away from children's schools and extended family to make a living."

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