Patients despair at doctor’s disappearance

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Nobody was home at Dr. Carl Schiano’s house in Roxbury. His Naugatuck practice has been closed unexpectedly for the past month, and patients say they can't reach him. RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Dr. Carl Schiano has disappeared again, leaving patients in the lurch who need medical attention or, in many cases, their files to seek out a new primary care physician.

Patients like Vicky Angelicola, 52, of Woodbury, have been left to figure out their medical problems as best they can with no word from the doctor they once depended on. Angelicola has diabetes and fibromyalgia, and ended up in the emergency room last week because she has not been able to get her prescriptions, she said.

“He saved my life a few times, but when I get to the point where I need my insulin, I just can’t do this,” Angelicola said.

Schiano’s office on the corner of Rubber Avenue and Church Street has been closed and dark since at least the beginning of this month, patients said. His office number’s voice mailbox is full and his home and cell numbers last week were out of service.

No one answered the door Thursday at the house Schiano is renting at 16 Good Hill Lane in Roxbury, but clothes and other personal items could be seen inside. The garage door was open, revealing four stacked boxes, damp from rain, containing envelopes, and some files with names on them.

Schiano caused a stir when he went away for two weeks in July on what he said was a vacation. While he was away, his office was not staffed and the phone line was disconnected.

When he returned, he was only at his office intermittently and the phone still did not work, and now he has seemingly gone again.

Schiano’s company, Associated Health Care, owes money to Naugatuck Savings Bank, which holds a mortgage on the building at 59 Rubber Ave., records show. He also owes the borough about $1,000 in taxes on property and equipment inside the building.

His wife, Cheryl Schiano, filed for divorce in June and is suing for alimony, according to court records.

Angelicola has joined the ranks of patients, fed up with Schiano’s extended and unannounced absences, who are unsuccessfully seeking their files. Angelicola said she has been Schiano’s patient since 1999, but said she ran into problems this month when he failed to call in an insulin prescription for her. Her blood sugar levels began to fluctuate abnormally until a spike last week sent her to the hospital, she said.

Angelicola said she has called and driven by the office multiple times but has not been able to contact the doctor since a late August appointment.

“When he didn’t call in that script, I tried all that week,” Angelicola said. “That’s when I said, ‘I can’t take it.'”

Angelicola, who has Medicaid, said she is now being treated at Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center in Ansonia, but the doctors there need the documents showing dates and past courses of treatment for her fibromyalgia. Until they get the paperwork, they can do no more than manage her pain, Angelicola said.

Schiano’s former medical assistant, Megan Bartlett, said he had about 200 patients while she worked for him from October 2010 until last June. Bartlett, who is Angelicola’s daughter-in-law, estimated 90 percent of Schiano’s patients were Medicaid patients.

Schiano lost at least 60 patients last spring when he started failing to show up for appointments at the last minute, Bartlett said.

“He would cancel on patients after the patient’s sitting in his waiting room for hours,” Bartlett said. “He would call and tell me to cancel his day.”

Bartlett, who is 30 and lives in the borough, said she eventually quit and filed a complaint with the state Department of Labor alleging she was owed about $2,300 in unpaid wages. The complaint is still under investigation.

“He affected probably 100 patients alone that were diabetics,” Bartlett said. “I feel sorry for all of his patients.”

People all over the borough are looking for Schiano, said Bartlett’s husband, 32-year-old Scott Bartlett.

“We can’t go anywhere without Megan running into patients asking how to get a hold of him,” Bartlett said.

Schiano retains an active physician’s license, and the state Department of Public Health cannot confirm or deny that it is investigating a doctor, spokesman William Gerrish said. When doctors decide to close their practices, they must place two notices in the newspaper and call every patient they have seen for the past three years, under state law. If they do not, the state’s medical examining board can review their case and determine appropriate consequences, such as suspension or revocation of medical licenses, Gerrish said.

“We do work to make sure there is a continuity of care,” Gerrish said. He was not able to say specifically if or how the department could reunite patients with their medical files.

The medical examining board suspended Schiano’s license for about three months in 2006, claiming he was abusing drugs and had prescribed methadone to a patient who gave it back to him in a scheme. He also prescribed large doses of medicine for his wife, which he did not record in her files, according to the state.