Former Grand River Medical staff face non-compete contracts as company quiet after layoffs

Over a month after a local health care provider laid off more than 50 employees, little still is known about the circumstances surrounding the decision.

Grand River Medical Group laid off 52 employees on Feb. 1, according to documents the company filed with Iowa Workforce Development. Since then, the company has remained relatively silent about the reasons for the layoffs.

However, multiple people associated with Grand River Medical Group told the Telegraph Herald that non-compete agreements are being enforced for at least some of the medical care providers who lost their jobs. Those agreements bar the providers from practicing their specialty within 35 miles of Dubuque for one year.

Members of the public and former patients publicly have called on the medical group to release the providers from those agreements, saying they force laid-off employees to find work outside the community during a health care workforce crisis. A recent petition titled “Stop Grand River Medical Group from running providers out of Dubuque Communities” had picked up 202 signatures by late Friday.

Tina Laine-Rhomberg, who started the petition, said she wanted to pressure Grand River Medical Group into releasing affected employees from their non-compete agreements. Laine-Rhomberg said many of her family members have lost their primary care physician due to the layoffs and now are searching for care outside of Grand River.

“It’s very saddening to think that (my provider) is here and wants to continue to provide for my family, and we are having to look elsewhere,” she said.

She said she hopes the petition will encourage Grand River to allow the providers to start their own practices or take jobs at other medical providers in the area.

Sheila Juers Black, of Dubuque, said she was informed via a letter that her provider no longer was employed at Grand River Medical Group.

“Then I called immediately and asked them for contact information for (my provider),” she said. “They were not able to provide any information, but they were very, very quick to say that they could set me up with a new physician.”

Juers Black said she since has called the Grand River office multiple times but receives the same answer each time.

“I really, really, really liked (my provider), and I had full confidence in her,” she said. “I would love to have her continue to be my health care provider and my primary physician, if possible.”

Juers Black said she won’t be taking up Grand River Medical Group’s offers to switch providers, not only because she wants to stay with her old provider but also because she is wary of the company after the layoffs.

“I’m not sure I want to be with Grand River. With that kind of massive layoff, I’m not sure that your business foundation is solid,” she said.

Grand River Medical Group did not respond to multiple calls and emails from the TH requesting comment over the past week.

While ongoing questions about the non-compete agreements remain, Grand River Medical Group also informed patients after the layoffs in February that its clinic in Cascade is closed for the foreseeable future because the facility’s care provider no longer works at Grand River.

Grand River Medical Group acquired the clinic from UnityPoint Health in August 2023, along with clinics in Peosta and on Pennsylvania Avenue in Dubuque.

The Grand River acute care clinic in the Asbury Plaza Hy-Vee remained closed Friday.

Grand River Medical Group was founded when Dubuque Family Practice, Dubuque Internal Medicine and Dubuque Pediatrics merged in 2016.

The provider has several locations in Dubuque and dialysis units in Dubuque and Manchester in Iowa and in Richland Center and Platteville in Wisconsin. Dubuque facilities include urgent care clinics at Warren Plaza and near the Locust Street Hy-Vee.