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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Customs Snag Stalls U.S. Global Health

U.S. Global Health Ltd., the new kids on the block in Moscow medical care, may not be stalled by pending law suits or court injunctions, but all it took was a little old-fashioned Russian bureaucracy to stump them.

The Western-style clinic, jointly funded by PepsiCo and the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, was scheduled to open Monday, but with virtually all of its equipment trapped in customs, the clinic had no choice but to put off opening day, U.S. Global Health officials said Monday.

The center was buzzing with workers Monday, racing to put the finishing touches on the barren clinic, which occupies the fourth floor of an UPDK building near Oktyabrskaya Ploshchad. "We're waiting for 500 cartons -- everything from light fixtures to wall coverings," said David Ginsberg, an administrator at Columbia-Presbyterian who is in town to supervise the project.

While a third of the goods finally cleared customs over the weekend, the majority of the medical equipment and simpler necessities such as carpeting have been sitting at Sheremetyevo 2 airport for the past month, Ginsberg said.

"Everybody thought we would have plenty of time to get these things through customs," says Ginsberg, adding that they were too ambitious in selecting their target date. "Next time we'll know better." After prominent campaigns advertising an Aug. 1 opening, Ginsberg is now wary about giving a new target date, but he said he hopes that the clinic, which is embroiled in a suit with the established American Medical Center, will open within the next 10 days.

When it does open, U.S. Global Health will have a staff of seven American trained and licensed physicians -- all but one of whom have arrived in Moscow, and will offer 24-hour emergency medical service.

Officials at AMC, the clinic's main competitors, were unaware of the delay, but were nonetheless delighted to hear that their rivals were experiencing difficulties. "For sophisticated equipment like that it's not surprising to wait a month," Barry French, a spokesman for AMC, said Monday. "I've had light bulbs sitting in customs for three weeks."

The AMC and U.S. Global Health are embroiled in a law suit in North Carolina, in which the established clinic is suing the newcomer for misappropriating trade secrets. The AMC obtained a court injunction protecting its client list, which, according to the judge, PepsiCo and its partners "acquired at least one copy of ... through misrepresentation."

The injunction prevents U.S. Global Health from soliciting the AMC's corporate clients. It also technically prevents insurance companies from reimbursing individuals using the new firm if they are covered by AMC corporate memberships. French acknowledged that it would be difficult to enforce such terms.

At the worst, U.S. Global Health may be permanently barred from soliciting clients from among employees working for the 175 companies that have AMC corporate membership.

But Ginsberg does not seem bothered. "There are a ton of companies that are not on that list," he said. "In the end, the best- and worst-case scenarios will be decided by the people in Moscow."