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Two Heart Center cardiologists challenge non-compete agreement
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The Heart Center at Northeast Georgia Medical Center - photo by Scott Rogers

Two of the 12 cardiologists who left The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center for Northside Hospital have filed a complaint asking to be exempt from the non-competition agreement they signed when hired in 2014.

Dr. Jeffrey Marshall and Dr. Mark Leimbach believe that the Northeast Georgia Health System “will improperly consider such employment (at Northside) to be a violation” of the agreement, according to the complaint filed with the Hall County Superior Court.

The health systems included in the non-competition agreement the doctors signed are Piedmont Healthcare, WellStar Health System and Emory Healthcare, all based in Atlanta. Northside is not included.

The agreement restricts employees from going to one of the competing health systems for two years after leaving The Heart Center.

Kurt Powell, the doctors’ attorney, was traveling Tuesday and was unavailable for comment by deadline.

NGHS spokesman Sean Couch said Tuesday that the agreement was standard for the medical field.

“While we can’t comment on pending litigation, non-competition covenants are common in employment agreements across the healthcare industry,” Couch said in an email. “The current physicians, advanced practitioners and staff of The Heart Center continue to put patients first and focus on ensuring they receive the care they need.”

The Heart Center has 15 locations, and Marshall and Leimbach worked mostly in Gainesville but had some responsibilities in Cumming and Braselton.

The non-competition agreement defines competing “territory” as the area within a 25-mile radius of each Heart Center office used for business within two years prior to the physician leaving. Athens-Clarke County is also included in the territory.

Doctors could face fees for terminating the contract early.

The complaint was filed on June 3, and the defendants, The Heart Center, NGHS and NGMC, have 30 days to respond.



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