Dental Board votes to allow arrested dentist to keep practicing despite Governor's concerns

PHOENIX - The Arizona dental board rejected calls from Governor Doug Ducey to take stronger action against a dentist facing criminal charges for falsifying his anesthesia credentials.

At a public meeting Friday, board members defiantly called on the Governor’s Office to produce evidence that Dr. Pankaj Goyal presents a danger to the public.

 “If there’s anything in his practice that puts the public in immediate harm, I would like them to please come forward,” said Dr. Gregory Waite, board president.

In a unanimous decision, the board voted to allow Goyal to continue practicing dentistry despite a recent arrest for multiple felony charges, including fraudulent schemes and forgery.

It also comes two days after Governor Ducey posted this tweet.

“Enough is enough. How long can this dentist continue practicing while serious allegations remain unanswered? It’s time for the board to suspend this individual’s license and get to the bottom of these issues. The board has an obligation to protect public safety. It’s time to act.”

Goyal, who has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges, was first exposed in an ABC15 investigation on July 6.

The station uncovered Goyal used a series of fake degrees, forged signatures, and false documents to obtain a 1301 General Anesthesia Permit from the dental board, according to multiple people and organizations.

The 1301 permit is the state’s highest level of anesthesia certification and authorizes Goyal to administer general anesthesia or deep sedation by any means.

ABC15 also revealed that the board received multiple warnings and complaints about Goyal dating back to 2014.

The Governor has placed increasing pressure and scrutiny on the dental board following ABC15’s reports.

In a series of letters to the board, Ducey expressed concerns about the initial board vetting of Goyal’s credentials and demanded confidential board records documents to see what happened to those past complaints and warnings.

As a result, board executive director, Elaine Hugunin, abruptly retired. The board also called an emergency meeting on July 16. It decided to temporarily freeze Goyal’s anesthesia permit but allowed him to continue practicing dentistry.

The situation escalated this week when ABC15 revealed on social media that Goyal’s business had posted about sedation and anesthesia procedures on its website and Facebook page.

Goyal’s attorney, Susan McLellan, told the board the posts were made by an outside marketing company and that he was not currently performing anesthesia procedures.

But the ABC15’s social media posts caught the attention of the Governor’s Office.

Officials said Ducey was surprised and troubled to learn that the dental board was allowing Goyal to practice. In a new letter, he requested that the board take further action at Friday’s meeting, including suspension or revocation.

The Governor also proposed that the dental board forgo hiring a new executive director and instead allowed the Arizona Department of Health Services to take over the board’s executive duties.

On Friday, the Board voted to form a committee and research the proposal.

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at dave@abc15.com.

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