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Gov. Ducey signs new health board law after ABC15 'impostor doctor' investigation

Posted: 4:19 PM, May 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-15 09:47:54-04
Gov. Ducey clarifies lawmakers' immunity

Governor Doug Ducey has signed into law a bill that increases accountability and transparency for how state health boards and law enforcement agencies handle cases of medical impostors.

HB2118 was introduced by Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, after watching ABC15’s documentary series, “Impostors.”

“This reporting uncovered a concerning policy gap in protecting consumers,” Ducey wrote in an approval for the bill. “This legislation addresses many of these issues and will help better protect Arizona patients and hold bad actors accountable."

Ducey also wrote he believes more can be done to stop unlicensed medical activity and he has ordered health boards to provide a full accounting of their policies and practices.

In his letter, it stated, “this behavior cannot exist elsewhere in our system.”

During the legislative process, lawmakers in both parties repeatedly praised HB2118 and cited many portions of ABC15’s reporting. The station’s investigative unit has spent more than two years reporting on impostor health professionals.

Two impostors, Craig Scherf and Pankaj Goyal, were convicted of felony charges as a direct result of the evidence uncovered by ABC15.

A third impostor, Ondranique Walls, has criminal charges pending.

In all, ABC15 found there have been more than 130 individuals officially questioned, accused, and/or found to have participated in unlicensed practice of health since mid-2012.

In many of those cases, health boards turned people away who had information about impostors, refused to investigate, purged documentation after months or a few years, failed to notify law enforcement, and kept names and information hidden from the public.

“I think you’re doing the public a great service by bringing this to light,” Rep. Barto told ABC15 in an interview earlier this year. “I was appalled quite frankly….It’s definitely a threat to public safety.”

HB2118 specifically addressed many of the loopholes and problems exposed in ABC15’s documentary.

It would require boards to:

- Regulate the unauthorized practice of the health field the board oversees.

- Verify complaints of unlicensed practice.

- Retain all records of the complaint and documentation for 10 years.

- Post on boards’ public websites, the names of people who have engaged in unauthorized practice.

- Set the criminal penalty for unauthorized practice to a class 5 felony.

- Refer verified complaints to county attorneys or the Attorney General’s Office.

Several associations that represent health professionals signed on in favor of HB2118, including ones for physical therapists, nurses, and osteopathic physicians. A lobbyist for insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield also approved the bill.

There was no official opposition filed against the bill.

All six episodes of ABC15’s documentary series “Impostors” are available now on the ABC15 channel on the following streaming devices: Roku, AndroidTV, AppleTV, Amazon Fire. It will also launch soon on Amazon Prime.

RELATED: Binge-watch new ABC15 Original Series, 'Impostors'

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