CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A judge reinstated a doctor's license Thursday, a month after it was suspended when health officials accused his clinic of unsanitary conditions and reusing needles.
Kanawha County Circuit Judge Charles King issued a preliminary injunction halting the suspension of Dr. Roland Chalifoux Jr.'s license until he can be heard by the state Board of Osteopathic Medicine, which issued the suspension last month. The injunction allows him to resume practicing medicine immediately, King ruled.
The judge ruled the board "failed to show that Dr. Chalifoux engaged in practices which may pose a risk to the public."
"There is a public interest in allowing Dr. Chalifoux's patients to seek and receive treatment from him," King said.
Chalifoux operated Valley Pain Management in McMechen, in northern West Virginia across the Ohio River from Ohio. The board's decision forced Chalifoux, the only licensed doctor at the clinic, to shut it down and lay off five employees.
Board executive director Diana Shepard didn't immediately return a telephone message. The West Virginia Bureau of Public Health didn't want to comment.
Health officials said an investigation found Chalifoux didn't wear a surgical mask during epidurals, the clinic reused syringes on more than one patient and had other sanitation problems.
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. Bacterial meningitis is contagious and can be fatal, causing swelling of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord and can be fatal.
Patients were advised last month to be tested for blood-borne infections. The advisory was for patients who had an injection between the clinic's 2010 opening and Nov. 1, 2013. Health officials said the clinic's injection practices potentially exposed them to diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
King's order said no additional cases of meningitis were found. The order didn't mention other diseases.
King said inspections hadn't been 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.
King said an injunction would bring "little likelihood" of harm to the board and to the health bureau. King said had the license remained suspended, Chalifoux would have been required to spend $45,000 as a nonrefundable premium for medical malpractice insurance.
In 2004, the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners revoked Chalifoux's license for violating standards 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.
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.