Investigation needed into health care

To their list of investigations, West Virginia legislators should add one looking at oversight of health care professionals in the state. Allegations involving a pain management clinic in McMechen and the physician who runs it make that clear.

State Board of Osteopathic Medicine members voted 5-0 on Friday to suspend Dr. Roland Chalifoux’s license to practice medicine in West Virginia. The action came after board members heard allegations Claifoux’s clinic used unsafe methods to administer injections to patients.

Chalifoux can appeal his suspension. He has denied strenuously allegations his clinic used needles or syringes on multiple patients. He also has said his clinic implemented recommendations made by the state Bureau of Public Health last year and was commended for that work.

On Friday, however, a BPH epidemiologist testified to the board of witnessing allegedly unsafe injection practices that involved a single patient. The BPH is continuing an investigation of Chalifoux.

Regardless of how that turns out, however, legislators should be inquiring about physician licensure procedures in West Virginia.

Chalifoux formerly practiced medicine in Texas. Our reporter learned that his license there was revoked in June 2004, after a board in that state reviewed three cases in which he was involved. In one of them, a patient died.

But on July 1, 2004, the Board of Osteopathic Medicine granted Chalifoux a restricted license to practice in West Virginia. He was permitted only to practice medicine at West Virginia University, where he planned to receive additional training.

On June 29, 2005, the board granted Chalifoux an unconditional license to practice in West Virginia.

Before their July 1, 2004, action, board members had been told Chalifoux’s Texas license had been suspended in 2002. Again, that was followed by revocation in June 2004.

Clearly, something prompted Texas officials to change their 2002 suspension to a revocation in June 2004. The question West Virginia legislators ought to be asking is whether the period between the Texas revocation and granting of the restricted West Virginia license – less than one month – gave the osteopathic medicine board enough time to assess Chalifoux’s application adequately.

Again, current allegations against Chalifoux should and will be investigated. That is a separate issue.

But Board of Osteopathic Medicine licensing procedures also should be investigated, simply to ensure they are adequate to safeguard West Virginians.