Pacific Daily News
Investigation of former GovGuam psychiatrist reopened
By Jerick Sablan
November 9, 2020
Psychiatrist Abner Pasatiempo
The Guam Board of Medical Examiners will reopen an investigation against Dr. Abner Pasatiempo after he reapplied for his license to practice on Guam.
Pasatiempo resigned from the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center last December after being accused of sexual misconduct involving six female patients.
The patients filed a complaint with the board in December, but Pasatiempo declined to renew his license and the board said it couldn’t proceed with the investigation as it had no jurisdiction over the psychiatrist.
Pasatiempo had previous troubles in the state of Maryland, where his license was suspended after he had a sexual relationship with a patient. Eventually, his license was restored and all restrictions were lifted, and the Guam board decided to grant Pasatiempo a license here.
Although the board knew of the past problems, they agreed there was a great need at Behavioral Health for a doctor who specialized in addiction treatment and approved his application. He was hired in 2018.
In December, the board received six complaints against Pasatiempo involving inappropriate activity with the women he was treating. He was immediately suspended and resigned a week later. His Guam medical license expired Dec. 31.
Another complaint was filed against the doctor on Jan. 16.
Pasatiempo 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.
Pasatiempo’s attorney Curtis Van de veld spoke with the board during their October meeting asking the board to resolve the doctor’s case so he can apply for work again.
The attorney said his client is currently in Alaska and had a job opportunity, but because the Guam board put an alert on the National Practitioner Data Bank, Pasatiempo has been unable to proceed.
The data bank is a national clearinghouse of adverse actions, investigations and complaints involving health professionals. While not accessible to the general public, it “is a workforce tool that prevents practitioners from moving state to state without disclosure or discovery of previous damaging performance,” according to the data bank website.
Van de veld said Pasatiempo was unaware that withdrawing his application would lead to a report to the national data bank, and submitted an application to the Guam board in July so he can clear his name and be able to practice in Alaska.
He said that he has reviewed the complaints and doesn’t believe they arise to a violation of conduct under Guam’s medical practice law, but if the board feels the need to conduct an investigation, it should do so.
However, Van de veld asked the board that a psychiatrist who has experience in drug treatment and rehabilitation takes the lead in the investigation, since the complaints involve drug treatment patients.
“It would be best under the circumstances some experience in that area,” he said.
Dr. Nathaniel Berg, chairman of the board, said the decision to report Pasatiempo to the national data bank was a regulatory requirement. He explained when someone declines to renew their license while an investigation is ongoing, it’s required to be reported.
This ensures that people aren’t able to avoid dealing with pending cases by just going to another jurisdiction, he said.
Now that Pasatiempo has submitted an application for renewal of his Guam license, the board can proceed with its investigation, Berg said.
The chairman said he will reach out to psychiatrists on Guam with experience in drug treatment to see if they would investigate the case. However, several psychiatrists on the island have submitted letters of support for Pasatiempo, so they will not be considered for the job, he said.
Van de veld said his client would like the matter to be resolved as quickly as possible so he’s able to work again, since he’s been out of work and unable to get another job.