A former Crystal Run Healthcare doctor is seeking her professional freedom and compensation, as she alleges the giant multi-specialty Hudson Valley provider is unfairly restricting her ability to practice, following a recent merger with Montefiore Medical System.
In a complaint filed Tuesday to amend her Dec. 5 lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Orange County, Dr. Lissette Giraud claims Crystal Run is preventing her from taking a new job as an ear, nose and throat surgeon.
Giraud, who was until recently one of roughly 133 partner doctors in Crystal Run, claims the company effectively ceased to exist on Jan. 1 when Crystal Run formed a new company in which Bronx-based Montefiore bought a one-third stake.
Yet, Giraud argues Crystal Run is keeping the old version of itself alive, and stating that it only employs her and a handful of other employees partly to punish her for not wanting to join the new version of the company.
Giraud’s case has important implications for a similar lawsuit filed by six current Crystal Run doctors in state Supreme Court in Westchester County. Those doctors also claim that Crystal Run is binding them to what Giraud’s suit calls a “sham, shell entity” to retaliate for their failure to approve the company’s merger.
Crystal Run has unequivocally denied her allegations and accused her and the other doctors of fighting the company through the media and broadly mischaracterizing the merger to benefit their own narrow business interests.
Crystal Run’s leaders contend the doctors are creating a public spat about the same non-compete clauses they originally agreed to, and they say the doctors’ meritless suits don’t change Crystal Run’s ability to provide high-quality care.
Giraud, and the other six plaintiff physicians — Samir Sodha, Howard Yeon, Christopher Inzerillo, Rocco Bassora, Andrew Beharrie and Hanna Kim — say they used to be employed in good standing among Crystal Run Healthcare's more than 400 providers and 2,500 employees. Following the merger, they claim they have been cordoned off into an old Crystal Run entity with just 46 employees.
In their similar suits, the seven doctors contend Crystal Run is requiring they provide one year of notice before leaving, while preventing them from working within 15 miles of a Crystal Run facility.
Because Crystal Run has two small offices in New York City, Giraud claims she can’t take her new job at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. She and the other doctors want the option to continue helping their local patients, but Crystal Run has offices throughout the Hudson Valley.
The physicians claim they didn’t join the new Crystal Run version because they didn’t want to be locked into its more onerous non-compete covenants.
The doctors contend the new version of Crystal Run would require them to give three years notice to leave; the Montefiore merger steers Crystal Run patients to Montefiore specialists in exchange for a corporate cash infusion; and the new corporate structure demotes Crystal Run’s former partner doctors to mere employees.
If there is a three-year notice provision to leave, it’s no wonder several doctors didn’t want to join the new Crystal Run, said Joshua Nemzoff, a health-care mergers and acquisitions consultant in Pennsylvania.
“Who on Earth would be so stupid as to sign that arrangement?” Nemzoff said. “It just strikes me as completely off the wall. It does venture fairly close to the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, which forbids slavery. I’ve never seen anything like that or anything close in all of my years of reviewing deals.”
Crystal Run’s leaders dispute the dissenting doctors’ description of their non-compete clauses. And in a recent email, Hal Teitelbaum, the practice's managing partner, countered that Crystal Run physicians will ethically send patients to the most appropriate providers regardless of their affiliation with Montefiore, and Montefiore will not always be Crystal Run's first choice.
"Any suggestion that this will reduce services, care or options for our patients is utterly false and contrary to everything we believe in and work towards as medical professionals," Teitelbaum added in a statement Wednesday.
Citing the fact that the doctors' litigation is pending, Teitelbaum declined to address the specifics of their claims.
“Unfortunately, we have been forced into a legal matter, as seven of our 133 partners have filed suit over Crystal Run’s transaction with Montefiore Health System," Teitelbaum's statement continued. "As a result of the legal action, a blatant misinformation campaign has been purposefully launched against Crystal Run. We have chosen not to engage and instead remain quiet, as this is a private matter against which we will rigorously defend ourselves in the court of law, and not through the media."