GRETNA — East Jefferson General Hospital has filed a lawsuit in the 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna against urgent care company After Hours Medical Group, which is partially owned by former hospital employee and Jefferson Parish coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich.
The suit alleges that After Hours, which Cvitanovich, 55, founded in 2002, violated its lease by subcontracting space to its parent company, MHM Urgent Care, which Cvitanovich also founded in 2005. The current lease terms expire in 2018. In May, the hospital twice notified After Hours that its lease would be terminated June 11. After Hours has not left the office space.
Cvitanovich worked in East Jefferson’s emergency room in 1992 and directed its wound center from 2002 to 2007. He served three terms on the hospital’s executive committee. In 2008, he left to become deputy coroner.
In addition, the suit alleges Cvitanovich violated an agreement that After Hours physicians would belong to the hospital.
David Sherman, an attorney for the hospital, declined to comment for this story. Cvitanovich could not be reached for comment.
A hearing in the case is scheduled Sept. 9.
Mark Diana, an associate professor with Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said hospitals and health systems are investing more in urgent care centers, which have become a growing trend.
“There are lots of people trying to get into this,” he told the Louisiana Record. “Some are hospitals, such as East Jefferson, and some are freestanding companies. Some are run by groups of physicians.”
Diana said the business model for urgent care centers, including retail and minute clinics and freestanding emergency rooms, looks for clientele interested in convenience.
“Patients don’t want to have to wait days or a week or longer to get in to see their regular primary care doctor and are willing to pay,” he said. “The urgent care centers are usually located where people are employed and have insurance who can afford to get treated quickly, even after hours, as opposed to having to wait.”
Diana said that a hospital loses revenue if a patient can’t get in to see a hospital-affiliated doctor and instead goes to urgent care.
“A hospital running an urgent care center, whether owned by the hospital or a joint venture, is trying to capture that urgent care patient.” he said. “In an arrangement between MHM and East Jefferson, the revenue will not be totally lost to East Jefferson and its physicians.”