Seven former employees of Zeid Women’s Health Center in Longview have filed a countersuit against the clinic, arguing against an injunction placed on them earlier this summer and calling for the facility’s founder to be held financially responsible for their loss of incomes and other damages.
“There is more than one victim here...,” said George Flint, a Frisco attorney representing the nurse practitioners and midwives in their counterclaim against Dr. Yasser Zeid. “These nurses were taking care of hundreds and hundreds of low-income patients in the Longview area. All that support was yanked out from under them. .... At the end of the day, the patients lost their health care providers without an option. These nurses deserve to work.”
The women worked for Zeid providing women’s health care at Special Health Resources as part of a contract between the two entities that no longer exists. The seven providers’ employment with Zeid ended earlier this year under circumstances each side disputes.
They went to work for Special Health Resources, prompting Zeid to sue them and Special Health Resources and seek an injunction to prevent the women from working there. He maintains the women were prevented from working there under a contractual noncompete clause. Judge Alfonso Charles, who presides over the 124th District Court in Gregg County, placed a one-year injunction on the women earlier this year that prevents them from working locally. They were fired from Special Health Resources.
Zeid’s lawsuit is expected to go to trial in November, and the women have appealed Charles’ decision to the state’s 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler. Flint said the women’s attorneys will attempt to coordinate the timing of the appeal and the ongoing litigation in Gregg County.
“We’re saying that the injunction against the nurses prohibiting them from working at SHRT, at that clinic, was wrongful,” he said, explaining that his clients argue that the noncompete clause didn’t include Special Health Resources, but a specific set of health care providers within 20 miles of Longview.
He said that legally “covenants not to compete deserve to be interpreted narrowly.” Flint believes the 12th Court of Appeals will reverse Charles’ decision and determine the covenant not to compete was incorrectly applied.
“Dr. Zeid knew that (the noncompete clause) did not include that clinic, and yet went to court anyway and tried to argue that it did and in the process tried to prohibit the nurses from being able to work really at any clinic” within 20 miles of Longview, Flint said. “A number of these women are longtime residents to Longview with family connections. It’s just not that easy for them to get up and go someplace else.”
The counterclaim was filed Sept. 25. Zeid’s attorney did not immediately return a phone call Thursday.
A statement Zeid Women’s Health Center previously issued in this case said there was a “conspiracy between ZWHC mid-levels and the SHRT CEO who is no longer with the organization.”
“The contractual violations, including the very standard non-compete, are numerous and have been upheld in court ...” the earlier statement says.
“(The women have said) SHRT was not a named entity in the non-compete. Mid-level practitioners must work under a supervising physician, and they have to collaborate with a physician who has privileges in one of the local hospitals to care for their patients when admitted to one of these hospitals,” the statement continued. “The supervising physicians at SHRT were initially all affiliated with entities named in the non-compete, and all physicians the mid-levels worked in conjunction with in order to care for their patients were affiliated with those entities.”
Flint, however, said “these ladies have been run over.”
“Whether or not the rulings are adverse to us, the nurses still want their day in court,” he said. “They feel like they’ve been wronged, and I agree with them. I feel like they’ve been seriously wronged.”