CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The head of a state board that suspended the medical license of a West Virginia doctor said she’s shocked by a judge’s move to let the doctor resume treating patients at a pain clinic where an investigation found sanitation and hygiene issues.
West Virginia Board of Osteopathic Medicine Executive Director Diana Shepard said the decision Thursday by Kanawha County Circuit Judge Charles King “sets a terrible precedent.”
King issued a preliminary injunction that wiped out the suspension for Dr. Roland Chalifoux Jr.
King ruled that the board failed to show that Chalifoux engaged in practices at Valley Pain Management which may pose a risk to the public.
But Shepard said, “Our goal, our purpose is to protect the safety of the public and we felt we had enough evidence.”
The board will continue to review the case and may appeal to the state Supreme Court, Shepard said.
However, if the judge is prohibiting enforcement of the suspension and setting aside the determination that the board had probable cause to take action, “there’s nothing we can do,” Shepard said. “We have no authority to do anything with this physician, and we don’t feel that’s the way the laws are written.”
Shepard said the proper outcome would be to let the board and Chalifoux present evidence before an administrative law judge.
Chalifoux didn’t return a telephone message left by The Associated Press at his clinic in McMechen, across the Ohio River from Ohio. King didn’t return a message left in his court office.
Chalifoux sought the court order because he faced having his malpractice insurance canceled by Sunday.
Health officials said an investigation last year found that Chalifoux didn’t wear a surgical mask during epidurals, that the clinic reused syringes on more than one patient and that it had other sanitation problems.
But King said no inspections were done since December, when the health bureau found the clinic had “excellent” procedures and Chalifoux was commended for his rapid response to issues raised during a previous site visit.
In July, patients who went to the clinic between its 2010 opening and Nov. 1, 2013, were advised to be tested for blood-borne infections.
West Virginia’s state epidemiologist Dr. Loretta Haddy had said a patient contracted bacterial meningitis a day after a procedure at the clinic and that health officials were notified last October.
King’s order said no additional cases of meningitis were found but didn’t mention other diseases.
Chalifoux first came before the board a decade ago when he sought a West Virginia medical license after a Texas board revoked his license there for violating standards in treatment of three patients, including the 1996 death of a 61-year-old man after unnecessary surgery was performed.
The West Virginia Board of Osteopathic Medicine, which was aware of the disciplinary action in Texas, granted Chalifoux a restricted license in 2004 so he could complete a neurosurgery refresher course at West Virginia University’s medical school. An unrestricted license was granted in 2005.
Chalifoux is the only license applicant since at least 2000 to apply for a license from the board after having one revoked or suspended outside West Virginia. Shepard said the board reviewed more than 1,060 files in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Associated Press.