Hearing Will Determine Whether Doctors' Group Can Continue Practicing in the Triangle
Posted October 28, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST
RALEIGH — A quarter million people in the Triangle could find themselves without medical care. That's because their doctors may not be allowed to practice here anymore.
It's happened before, but this time four times as many patients could be affected -- 250,000 people may not be able to get the medicine, the test results or the critical care they need.
Stanley and Nancy Harrison are among 65,000 people who are still without a doctor following the August bankruptcy of North Carolina Medical Associates.
"We spent 10 years with the same doctor," says Stanley Harrison. "I don't want to train another one to get to know me and my likes and dislikes and her and her likes and dislikes."
Their physician is one of 20 who can't practice here because of non-compete contracts with the group's owner, MedPartners. Now the same thing could happen to a larger doctors' group -- Cardinal Healthcare.
Cardinal Healthcare has 17 offices in the Triangle. If it breaks its ties with MedPartners, 100 doctors may not be able to practice, leaving a quarter of a million patients out in the cold.
Deputy Attorney General Alan Hirsch has intervened and is making progress in the NCMA dispute. He hopes to ward off a similar scenario with Cardinal.
"This time we're going to try to work before a problem happens, to be sure we don't get into this situation where doctors and patients are separated, which is simply not acceptable," says Hirsch.
It may be unacceptable but it could happen. The Harrisons warn others to be prepared.
"I'd say do everything you can to get all the medication you can stocked up in advance," says Stanley Harrison.
Progress is being made in the NCMA dispute. A federal judge has already ruled that some of the junior doctors with that group will be able to continue practicing medicine soon.
A hearing Thursday should decide whether the rest of the doctors will get to do the same.