McMECHEN, W.Va. — Kanawha County Circuit Judge Charles King on Thursday reinstated the medical license of Dr. Roland Chalifoux, finding that practices at his Valley Pain Management clinic posed no threat to public health.
The West Virginia Board of Osteopathic Medicine on July 25 suspended Chalifoux’s license after a complaint filed by state Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Letitia Tierney. The complaint, which started with a bacterial meningitis report last fall, included allegations of unsafe practices at the clinic, including multiple uses of the same syringe.
The bureau conducted two site inspections late last year at the clinic, with the following findings on Dec. 19, according to King’s order: “We commend the physician and clinic team for rapid and complete response to the issues raised during the previous site visit” and “Clinic procedures are excellent.”
No other site visits occurred between December and July.
“The court finds that the passage of this amount of time suggests that there is no immediate harm posed to the public and there is no basis upon which there can be any likelihood of harm to the board, the bureau or the public,” King wrote.
King, in his 11-page ruling, said it appears Tierney’s complaint was based “on an apparent dispute over the scope of the bureau’s right to collect private health information from Dr. Chalifoux.” Chalifoux’s office provided 1,600 names to the state for the meningitis report, but the state had asked for additional patient files.
Chalifoux had refused that request, which led to Tierney’s complaint and his license being suspended, according to the ruling.
Hours after King’s order was issued, Chalifoux called for Tierney’s resignation as state public health commissioner, alleging she “used her power” to attempt to access his patient records.
“This has been very, very trying for our office,” Chalifoux told The Intelligencer, adding he laid off all five of his office workers following his suspension. “Our patients also are so scared right now, they don’t know what’s going on. That’s been the biggest tragedy. My patients – people of West Virginia and Ohio – have suffered because of this.”
Attempts Thursday to reach Tierney were unsuccessful. A call to Diana Shepard, executive director of the state Board of Osteopathic Medicine, was not answered.
Allison C. Adler, director of communications for the DHHR, referred all questions regarding the suspension of Chalifoux’s license to the Board of Osteopathic Medicine. However, she said the DHHR’s investigation of the pain clinic is ongoing.
Chalifoux said it needs to be clear that his office did not do anything that could have caused a potential outbreak in the local area.
“That’s the crime here,” he said. “This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. People have been scared into believing something that didn’t really exist.”
Now, Chalifoux said, he must rebuild his practice, essentially from scratch. He said his focus will be getting his office back up and running, which includes working with insurance providers.
“When something like this happens, it’s not taken lightly by anybody, especially insurance companies,” he said. “What happened in July essentially created a major amount of distrust with insurance companies. We need to reapply, extend ourselves out to the community again and make them realize we were not the bad guys here.”
While Chalifoux knows the healing process will be difficult, he said he is “here to help people.”
“I took an oath as a physician to take care of people,” he said. “As a medical professional, my job is to heal. I think the judge … did the right thing to review the facts, and essentially has stated I posed no threat. Now, I want to get my office up and running to the degree I’ve always wanted it to run.”