Duke sued over move to force employment on 400 physician members of private practice

A physician is trying to stop Duke University Health System from requiring clinical research faculty physicians to become its employees.

Eugene Moretti, MD, an anesthesiologist with Durham, N.C.-based Private Diagnostic Clinic, filed a lawsuit against Duke Dec. 20, alleging the health system is attempting to "take over the PDC over the physicians' objections and without paying for the practice's fair value."

The Durham, N.C.-based health system created a new faculty practice in July. Duke mandated faculty in clinical departments who perform research join the group and become fully employed by July 2022. The employment requirement will force 400 physician members of PDC, a 1,850-member physician practice, to leave the group.

Duke has attempted to acquire Private Diagnostic Clinic in the past, but the deal never came to fruition, according to the lawsuit. One valuation firm has valued the clinic at $750 million to $1.1 billion.

The clinic has worked closely with Duke Health for decades and includes physicians who hold faculty appointments at the health system. Five physicians on the clinic's board plan to join Duke's faculty practice, according to the lawsuit, which Dr. Moretti claimed is a breach of their fiduciary duty.

Duke plans to "vigorously fight" the lawsuit, a spokesperson for the health system told The News & Observer newspaper.

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