Governor Ducey wants AZ Health Department to take over dental board

PHOENIX - Governor Doug Ducey wants the Arizona Department of Health Services to take over the executive responsibilities of the state dental board following a series of ABC15 reports.  

Ducey outlined his request in a letter on Thursday to members of the Arizona Board of Dental Examiners.

It comes after ABC15 exposed how the board failed to properly vet and investigate Dr. Pankaj Goyal, who used a series of fake, forged, and fraudulent documents to obtain a general anesthesia permit.

Goyal was arrested days after the news report.

“It’s clear to me the Board of Dental Examiners would benefit from experienced leadership in matters of public health,” Ducey said in a prepared statement.

The board’s executive director, Elaine Hugunin, abruptly retired in the wake of ABC15’s reports.

Rather than hire a new director, Ducey believes that the dental board should vote to enter into an agreement with the state health department to oversee its official duties and investigations.

Information about the structure of the possible agreement and its execution have not been fully worked out.

It would first require a majority vote by the dental board’s 11 members and would create an interesting test case in Arizona for regulating health professionals.  

The board’s next meeting is Friday.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) said, “We stand ready to assist and look forward to working with the Board and its employees to protect public health.

Each of Arizona’s 20 health boards operate independently and autonomously. Elected officials have little direct oversight over the boards.  

In recent years, the Governor’s Office has explored ways to consolidate the boards and look at different oversight models used in other states.

One of the options is using an “umbrella model,” which would place boards under the oversight of a central agency.

If adopted in Arizona, the central agency would likely be ADHS.

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

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