Pacific Daily News
Guam psychiatrist accused of inappropriate touching has resigned
January 6, 2020
A psychiatrist accused of inappropriately touching patients was suspended by Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center as soon as complaints were received last month, according to the center’s director.
Dr. Abner Pasatiempo has since resigned from Behavioral Health and withdrawn his re-licensing application with the Guam Board of Medical Examiners, Director Theresa Arriola said.
Pasatiempo’s Maryland medical license was suspended in 2006 after he had sex with a patient. Pacific Daily News reported on Sunday that the board knew about Pasatiempo’s troubles in Maryland when he applied for a license here.
The Guam license was granted in April 2018 because of an extraordinary need to fill the position at Behavioral Health, said Dr. Nathaniel Berg, Board of Medical Examiners chairman, during the board’s Dec. 13 meeting. The Guam board has received six complaints against the doctor.
All six complaints were received at once on Dec. 6, and Arriola said she suspended him from work after receiving the complaints. All six complaints involved inappropriate sexual conduct, according to Arriola.
Pasatiempo submitted his letter of resignation Dec. 13.
‘One complaint is too much’
Pasatiempo was hired by the center’s previous director and licensed by the previous Board of Medical Examiners, Arriola said.
“I can’t speak on behalf of the board,” she said. “The board licensed him and allowed him to practice on Guam.”
Behavioral Health has “heavy background checks,” she said. “One complaint is too much. Upon it coming to my attention, I took administrative action and suspended his practice.”
Behavioral Health continues to recruit for more psychiatrists.
“Guam Behavioral Health doesn’t have just one psychiatrist,” Arriola said. “It’s unfortunate to have one less psychiatrist. We’re handling the load, and hiring more people.”
Arriola received designation for Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness as a “health professional shortage area” in July. Qualified specialists will receive federal debt forgiveness for practicing on Guam, providing an incentive for professionals to work on Guam, Arriola said.
“We have several people who have contacted us,” Arriola said.
Plans to beef up Behavioral Health are underway, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said.
The governor cited the recent designation in Adelup’s Safer Guam Initiative as an opportunity “to secure the talent our people need.”
The plan’s announcement did not address qualification standards for specialists.
‘Abuse of power’
The Board of Medical Examiners requested that Pasatiempo not practice medicine here until the complaints are resolved.
Pasatiempo’s Guam license expired in December 2019.
Behavioral Health revoked Pasatiempo’s prescription-writing privilege, but the agency didn’t inform the board what disciplinary action it took against him, board members said during the meeting.
Pasatiempo, who couldn’t be reached for comment, was listed as a staff psychiatrist at Behavioral Health earning a base salary of $260,000 annually, according to the fiscal 2019 fourth-quarter staffing pattern.
Berg during the meeting said the six Guam complaints didn’t involve allegations of sex, but Pasatiempto was accused of inappropriate touching. The board agreed to notify the patients that their complaints were received and will be investigated.
Berg said doctors know they shouldn’t have any sexual contact with patients because it’s an abuse of power. In psychiatry, the boundary is especially important.
In a recording of the April 2018 meeting, board members indicated they discussed Pasatiempo’s application during a previous teleconference. There was no discussion during the public meeting and his application was approved.
In 2006, Pasatiempo was disciplined in Maryland after having a romantic relationship with a patient. The Maryland Board of Physicians found him guilty of immoral or unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine and suspended his license for five years, according to disciplinary records.
All but 18 months of the suspension was stayed. In 2008, the board found that he was in compliance with terms of a consent order and his license was reinstated. He was placed on probation for five years, and in 2013 the probationary terms were completed.
The case stemmed from a June 30, 2004, complaint in which a woman said she and Pasatiempo had a sexual relationship while the doctor was providing her with psychiatric treatment. In a letter to the board dated the following day, the doctor “admitted to having become ‘romantically involved’ with an unnamed adult female patient,” according to board disciplinary records.
In 1997, when she was 19, the woman was referred to Pasatiempo for evaluation because of difficulties with unstable mood and anxiety. The woman “had undergone two past psychiatric hospitalizations, one of which followed a suicide attempt,” according to Maryland Board of Physicians’ disciplinary records. She “had also previously resided in a residential treatment program for two years.”
In 2002, Pasatiempo also began treating the woman’s 7-year-old child, who had a “history of hyperactivity, impulsivity, aggressiveness and other behavioral issues,” according to the records. The doctor continued to treat the woman, referred to in discipline records as “Patient A.”
In late 2003, Pasatiempo “began making openly sexually suggestive remarks to Patient A,” the records state. He “started engaging in sexual activity with Patient A in his office in or around November 2003. Because of her discomfort, Patient A requested that they not have sexual relations in Respondent’s office. The Respondent then sent Patient A to a nearby hotel, after which he joined her there, where he had sexual relations with her.”
He also brought the woman on a trip to Arizona, where he took his board re-certification exam, and he took the woman and her child to Disney World in Florida, the records state. He also provided financial support for her, and signed over checks written to him by other patients, according to the discipline records.
In April 2004, he and the woman moved in together, and he attempted to conceive a child with her, the records state.
The relationship deteriorated, and in mid-June 2004, Pasatiempo “left the apartment he shared with Patient A and moved back in with his wife. When the Respondent terminated his personal relationship with patient A, he informed her he could no longer provide treatment for her. Around this time, the Respondent provided Patient A with very large amounts of psychotropic medications for her to use, while reportedly telling her that he was worried about her committing suicide.”