CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia board Friday suspended the license of the operator of a pain management clinic where investigators found syringes were being reused. It was the second disciplinary action involving the doctor's license within a decade.
Dr. Roland Chalifoux Jr. wasn't at the closed-door meeting of the West Virginia Board of Osteopathic Medicine, which took the action. He will be given 15 days to request a hearing. Health officials in Ohio and West Virginia on Monday advised patients who had an injection at Valley Pain Management between its 2010 opening and Nov. 1, 2013, to be tested for blood-borne infections after a patient contracted bacterial meningitis in October. Health officials said the clinic's injection practices potentially exposed patients to diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
Board executive director Diana Shepard said Chalifoux is the only licensed doctor at the clinic in McMechen, effectively shutting down the business in West Virginia's Northern Panhandle. Shepard said the license suspension was "based on the lack of standard-of-care guidelines ... not being followed in that office and the potential harm that could be caused to the public."
Chalifoux's attorney, Elgine McArdle of Wheeling, didn't immediately return a telephone message Friday. West Virginia's state epidemiologist Dr. Loretta Haddy has said an investigation found the clinic reused syringes on more than one patient, Chalifoux didn't wear a surgical mask during epidural injections and that the facility had other sanitation and hygiene issues. Haddy declined to disclose where the meningitis diagnosis occurred.
Bacterial meningitis is contagious, can cause swelling of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord and can be fatal. Survivors can suffer mental disabilities, hearing loss and paralysis. It is spread through saliva or mucous.
Health agencies from Ohio and West Virginia had requested a patient list from the clinic in order to notify patients of their potential risk of exposure and testing options. When the clinic balked, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources subpoenaed the clinic for the list "and is prepared to institute additional legal action if the clinic does not comply," DHHR spokesman Toby Wagoner said.
McArdle has said a subpoena violates health privacy laws and she plans to make a motion to quash it. In 2004, the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners revoked Chalifoux's license for violating standards of care in his treatment of three patients, including the 1996 death of a 61-year-old man after unnecessary surgery was performed, according to the board's final order.
A Texas appeals court affirmed the license revocation. 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.
In reviewing Chalifoux's file, Shafer noted the board a decade ago took more than a year to review his original application. By comparison, most applications are reviewed in three to four weeks, she said.