By SHELLEY HANSON
WHEELING - The West Virginia Board of Osteopathic Medicine is considering an appeal to the West Virginia Supreme Court after Dr. Roland Chalifoux's medical license was reinstated Thursday.
Osteopathic board Director Diana Shepard said the board was shocked by Kanawha County Circuit Judge Charles King's decision to reinstate Chalifoux's license.
"He wiped it off the table totally, in our interpretation," she said. "This sets a terrible precedent. If a doctor doesn't like a decision a licensing board makes ... they can just get it overturned. We were astounded by the final results. If we can file an appeal with the Supreme Court, that's what we will do. In the meantime, the doctor is practicing medicine."
Chalifoux, accused by the state Bureau of Health of improper practices at his Valley Pain Management Clinic in McMechen, had his license suspended July 25 by the Osteopathic board.
Chalifoux petitioned for and received a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief, granted by King on Thursday.
"We offered to have a hearing and he waived that. He wanted an informal board meeting. We told him we were meeting on Sept. 5 and he could do a presentation at that point and then have a hearing. He didn't want that. He wanted something done sooner," Shepard said.
Chalifoux's medical malpractice insurance was set to be canceled Aug. 31, according to King's ruling, which is why he sought the court order.
In July, the state Bureau of Health's investigation surfaced with a report of a case of meningitis from last year and with accusations that Chalifoux used unsafe methods to administer injections to patients. State health officials accused Chalifoux of reusing syringes to enter vials and saline bags used for more than one patient - not of reusing the same needles on different patients.
Chalifoux on Thursday alleged Dr. Letitia Tierney, commissioner of the state Bureau of Health, abused her power to create a medical crisis that did not exist. The West Virginia and Ohio bureaus of health sent out press releases in July calling on patients of Chalifoux to get tested for various infections, including HIV, because of Chalifoux's past practices.
"She knowingly and without any regard for the residents of West Virginia and Ohio frightened them without cause. Her ambush of me and of my Osteopathic Medical Board was derelict and calculated and for that she needs to resign as commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health and apologize to the residents of Ohio and West Virginia for her callousness and utter failure of her position of trust to the State of West Virginia," Chalifoux said.
Tierney was not available for comment Friday, but spokesman Toby Wagner said the Department of Health and Human Resources did not suspend Chalifoux's license. DHHR's investigation of the pain clinic is ongoing.
According to King's order, the court granted Chalifoux relief based on various issues - most notably because nine months had passed between the first inspection of his office and the summary suspension of his license. The two site inspections late last year led to 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.
It also noted the injunction would remain in effect until further order of the court.
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.