The state Medical Examining Board imposed disciplinary action against four doctors Tuesday, including fining a West Hartford ophthalmologist $15,000 for operating on the wrong eye and fining a Bridgeport radiologist $5,000 in connection with a delayed cancer diagnosis.
The board also reprimanded the medical license of the ophthalmologist, Dr. Patrick F. Albergo, for failing to comply with his Connecticut Eye Center’s “time-out” procedures and failing to maintain adequate medical records, according to a consent order he signed.
Albergo, who chose not to contest the allegations, has completed courses in medical recordkeeping and changed protocols at the center to make sure that surgeons mark the correct eye before operating, the order said.
The patient needed surgery on both eyes, and both procedures were done on separate days but in the wrong order, state Department of Public Health records (DPH) show.
Board member Dr. Robert A. Green said the excuse that the patient needed surgery on both eyes is not acceptable.
“As a surgeon, this is considered a ‘never’ event,’’ he said.
In addition to the $5,000 fine, the board also reprimanded the medical license of the radiologist, Dr. Paul Aiello, for incorrectly describing a patient’s vaginal ultrasound results as “unremarkable” in 2019 though the woman had cancer. DPH records show that the patient filed a complaint that said her cancer diagnosis had been delayed due to Aiello and she had to have a hysterectomy and chemotherapy.
Aiello failed to meet the standard of care by not including in his report that measurements of the lining of the patient’s uterus were outside of normal limits, a consent order he signed said. Aiello, who chose not to contest the allegations, apologized to the patient, was recertified as a radiologist and completed a number of medical courses, DPH records show.
Aiello’s New Haven attorney, Kevin Budge, said Aiello has expressed remorse for the error and has reached an agreement to compensate the patient. Budge did not disclose the amount of the financial settlement.
The case prompted a discussion of the size of fines proposed by DPH, with Dr. C. Steven Wolf saying that medical boards in other states regularly impose higher fines. Green voted against the consent order as did board member Michele Jacklin.
“I just want to say that this [fine] is remarkably and laughably insufficient,’’ Jacklin said.
Jacklin asked that DPH officials come to a future board meeting to explain how the fines are negotiated and set, and board chairperson Kathryn Emmett said she will put such a discussion on a future agenda.
The board also imposed a $10,000 fine and reprimanded the medical license of Dr. Gary Blick, the chief medical officer of Health Care Advocates International, a Stratford health clinic that specializes in the care of LGBTQ and HIV-positive patients.
Blick agreed to a consent order that states that in 2017 and 2018, he failed to properly care for a patient, failed to maintain proper medical records for the patient and failed to monitor the person’s outcome after medical interventions.
Multiple times, Blick also directed unlicensed people to administer medications to patients, including intravenously, the consent order said. It also said that in 2018, Blick failed to maintain adequate infection prevention practices and failed to properly secure patient medical information.
While admitting no wrongdoing, Blick did not contest the allegations, the order said. DPH records show that Blick has completed courses in medical recordkeeping, infection control and management of autoimmune disorders.
Wolf said DPH should have included a probationary period in the consent order and required Blick’s practice to be reviewed by another physician.
“We have no real idea if this is an isolated incident,’’ he said.
Blick’s New Haven attorney, Phyllis Pari, said that Blick submitted an infection control plan in 2018 that was approved by DPH and Blick had an independent board-certified physician review his practice.
“The conclusion is that Dr. Blick is practicing with skill and safety,’’ she said.
In response, Wolf said that made him feel more comfortable with the order.
The board voted 11-6 to reject a consent order that would have fined a doctor who has worked at vein clinics in Southbury and Greenwich $2,500 for performing an excessive number of procedures on a patient and misclassifying the severity of the patient’s vein disease, state records show.
Several board members objected to the low fine, so the case of Desiree Clarke, of West Palm Beach, Florida, was returned to DPH.
The board also fined a New York City ophthalmologist $5,000 and reprimanded his medical license for failing to disclose in 2020 that he was facing disciplinary action in other states when he applied to have his license renewed in Connecticut.
Dr. Andrew Gewirtz chose not to contest the allegation in a consent order he signed. In 2020, California’s medical board reprimanded his medical license for failing to supervise technicians in person who were performing refraction eye exams on patients. Medical boards in Florida, Massachusetts, Illinois and Maryland have also taken disciplinary action against Gewirtz based on the California order.