WATCH: Board licenses doctors with shady histories of practice

The Guam Board of Medical Examiners held a long-awaited board meeting Wednesday, when the examiners approved the licenses of several doctors with questionable histories of practice.  All the licenses were granted, despite disclosures of harm upon patients, and even drunkenness.

Doctor with settlement history already practicing at GMH

Todd Zisholtz, M.D. was the first application for full licensure reviewed.  GBME Chairman of the Board Nathaniel Berg swiftly came to bat for Zisholtz when he said, “Although it’s not particularly important, I will mention that there was a settlement case.  It wasn’t exactly referenced correctly in his notation as to exactly what happened with the case, if anyone can look at it but the National Register Databank case that is cited does not look, does not blame him.  There’s a whole cadre of people that were involved so I’m ok with it because even if he didn’t explain it, I can see by the National Practitioner Data Bank’s explanation is long and thorough so I’m ok with that too.  Also, he’s already been practicing at GMH, and I was assured by Dr. Jeff Cruz and Dr. Bordallo that there’ve been no incidents as well.  And that they are continuing to monitor his care because he was granted an emergency temporary license.”  The GBME approved Zisholtz license despite clarification as to why there was a settlement and what the case was about.

‘It was a wrong limb, no big deal’—blamed patient for botched procedure

Another applicant for full licensure was reviewed and justifications for the errors reflected on his record went on for quite some time.  According to Berg, William Y. Oh M.D., “was trained in Loma Linda in 1973, did family practice and then orthopedic surgery, finished in 1980 in orthopedic surgery as well as hand surgery and sports medicine surgery fellowship.”

Berg went on to explain nonchalantly, “He’s had several issues.  So, there’s some of them that are minor, and they’re all listed in the National Practitioners Data Bank.  One was, for example, a case that settled in 1995 for $2,000.  I think the fee itself sort of speaks to itself.  There was a gentleman, it was a wrong limb surgery.  The name sounds horrible, but the case was documented in the National Practitioner Data Bank as having been prepped and draped by the staff, confirmed by the patient regarding he’d had longstanding left knee problems.  The left knee was the targeted limb.  The right knee was prepped and draped by the patient.  Preoperatively confirmed by the patient that it was his right knee to be operated on…He made a single incision on the skin, thought something was wrong here, stopped the case and proceeded to operate on the correct limb.”

Nerve damage “done by significant trauma”

“There is a case where he operated, it is uncontested.  He operated on someone’s back in 2000, so that was five years later…He had a case of nerve damage where the patient had peroneal nerve damage done by significant trauma.”  Berg downplayed the matter, explaining, “He operated on the case and the patient still had peroneal pathology but was able to return to work and had improvement, but he expected that the nerve damage would go away.  The case was settled out of court.  He objected to the settlement, but the insurance company settled it anyway for $100,000.

“Finally, he had a case where he resigned under investigation, and he reports that he had been…it’s a long explanation regarding a dominant group.  He came into a hospital in Ohio, there was a dominant group there and they pressured him to leave because he was hired by the hospital, and they were a private practice group.  And the hospital medical director suggested to him that he resign otherwise he was going to end up fighting a large group that was better funded than him.”

Berg did not elaborate on the “reports” or the details of Oh’s Ohio practice.  The chairman did suggest that “those are reasonable during a 45-year career to expect for an orthopedic surgeon practicing in the United States of America to have those kind of cases.  Of course, we never like it when someone resigns under duress, but he kept on practicing and was able to maintain his license out of jurisdictions.  So, I’m okay with giving him a license.”

Just a little drunk

Tanya Shah M.D. applied for a temporary licensure and her request was also granted even though she has a DUI on her record.  Berg mentioned that it was “unfortunate it was during her early part of her career” but that Shah acknowledged her guilt and attended the classes required of her.  Before giving his blessing of approval to license Shah, Berg said, “I might also add, not that it’s particularly important, for the level of alcohol was, I think, borderline, just barely above the limit.  Which is not good, none of us would do that, I hope.  But it was not an egregious or something that involved an accident or anything else.  Not that that makes it less important than it is, but it also emphasizes that there was no other issue involved such as harm to somebody else or a child on board or some other…it was one extraordinary, I might add, lapse in judgement.  And I think it’s, as someone had mentioned, we have to give people a chance to resurrect themselves.  And I think we will do so.  That is my opinion, that we do so.”

Every licensure applicant was approved by the board except for Abner Pasatiempo, who was not granted reinstatement pending a criminal investigation.

The GBME gives out licenses like candy and the community in attendance to the meeting were not able to speak.  The GBME board does not allow the public to view any reports.

GBME and Attorney General’s office silence public input

A constituent attempted to ask when the public might be able to comment during the meeting.  Zennia Pecina, who is paid by public funds and is the government’s health personnel licensing officer, interrupted the woman and admonished members of the public in attendance not to speak.

Dr. Berg sought board legal counsel Rob Weinberg’s legal guidance.  Mr. Weinberg is the assistant attorney general assigned to the GBME.  He told Berg the board may prohibit public input.

Kandit asked Office of the Attorney General spokeswoman Carlina Charfauros why the OAG does not support the voice and participation of the public.

“AG Camacho and the OAG has taken affirmative steps to promote transparency and open government,” Ms. Charfauros replied.  “Most recently, we provided training on Open Government Law to any interested GovGuam employee (you can find it on YouTube now), and we also recently resolved a suit against some members of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities (CCU) members for discussing salary raises behind closed doors (a clear violation of open gov’t).

“Also, I am told it is the Board’s call on whether there will be public comment or not.

“FYI, you can see 5 GCA 8103(b) (“This Chapter does not require that a person who is admitted to a meeting of a public agency shall, because of his mere presence, be accorded an opportunity to participate in such a meeting.”)

“So the OAG did NOT prohibit anything.”

One person in attendance had this to say about the meeting:

“The Guam Board of Medical Examiners (GBME) has failed to properly adjudicate constituents’ complaints in a timely manner. What’s more the GBME has failed to adjudicate the complaints filed as per Title 10 GCA CH 12 § 12201 Statement of Policy […to protect the public from the unprofessional, improper, incompetent, unlawful, fraudulent, and/or deceptive practice of medicine…It is the primary responsibility of the Guam Board of Medical Examiners is to protect of the people of Guam.]

“It is with the utmost importance the GBME do the job (they) agreed and promised to do.

“All but one member of the GBME are practicing providers. These board members are aware of the laws and statue that govern medical personnel.

“It is (their) obligation to properly adjudicate (their) counterparts whom have been found to practice below the standard of care.

“The people of Guam deserve better.”—Mary Nolte.  Ms. Nolte said she is a “victim of improper medical care – care that fell below the acceptable standard of care.”

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