State health officials investigate Valley Pain Clinic

McMECHEN – A local pain management clinic is being investigated by the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health for allegedly reusing needles and vials of pain medications on multiple patients.

Valley Pain Management Clinic of McMechen, which is operated by Dr. Roland Chalifoux, allegedly conducted unsafe injection practices prior to Nov. 1, 2013. The clinic opened in 2010.

Because of the investigation, West Virginia and Ohio department of health officials on Monday released separate statements advising the clinic’s patients to get tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV as a precaution.

According to the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health, the clinic allegedly “reused the syringes to enter vials and saline bags for more than one patient.”

“Our primary responsibility in public health is to protect the public. While we cannot determine if these procedures caused any illnesses, it is possible this practice may have exposed Valley Pain Management patients to infections,” said Dr. Letitia Tierney, commissioner and state health officer for the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health.

Tierney said the clinic has refused to provide a list of patients for the bureau to contact.

“If someone has been a Valley Pain Management patient and received injections, it does not mean that he or she has contracted an infectious disease. It is impossible to predict which patients were potentially exposed to infectious diseases,” said Ohio Department of Health Program Manager of Viral Hepatitis Prevention Maureen Murphy-Weiss. “As a precaution, we are recommending that Ohio residents who have ever been a Valley Pain Management patient talk with their primary care provider about testing for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Some patients could have these serious diseases without any symptoms, and the sooner they are detected, the quicker treatment can begin.”

A Valley Pain Clinic worker on Monday said the clinic declined to comment on the investigation. When asked if they were still in operation, the worker said “yes.”

Attorney Elgine McArdle, who is representing Chalifoux, called the state’s investigation “a fishing expedition.”

McArdle said Chalifoux denies the bureau’s allegations. She said she plans to attempt to quash the state’s subpoena for patient records.

“The West Virginia Bureau of Public Health is overreaching and trying to get information by the back door that Chalifoux wouldn’t provide. … I really believe because I was so adamant about not releasing patient records they created a scare,” McArdle said concerning the state taking the investigation public. “They’re damaging his reputation, based on what?”

McArdle said the bureau tried to cite a state law that says lists of patients can be obtained during a major outbreak, but there isn’t an outbreak to allow for use of that law, she said.

Howard Gamble, Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department administrator, said clinic patients also can get tested at their local health department. He said his health department did not have a direct hand in the investigation, but he was keeping the county board of health up to date on the matter.

Gamble said testing at local health departments is available until Oct. 21.