Nurse accused of participating in surgery at VA hospital while drunk

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A Pennsylvania nurse was under the influence of alcohol while assisting with an emergency surgery at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center earlier this month, police said.

Asked during a police interview why he thought he was being questioned, 59-year-old registered nurse Richard J. Pieri allegedly answered, “I guess it has something to do with me being drunk on call,” according to The Times Leader.

Pieri was charged with reckless endangerment, driving under the influence and public drunkenness stemming from the Feb. 4 incident.

Pieri allegedly forgot he was on call on the evening of the surgery and reportedly told police that he drank four or five beers while playing slot machines at the Mohegan Sun casino in the Poconos. He was called to the hospital just before midnight, according to WNEP.

Surveillance video reportedly shows Pieri get out of his truck and bump into a concrete barrier on his way into the medical center. He nearly falls and stumbles numerous times, according to an affidavit viewed by The Times Leader.

His duties during the appendectomy procedure included prepping and retrieving the patient, preparing surgical materials, documenting the surgery and monitoring the patient’s vital signs, the affidavit stated. But Pieri allegedly struggled to complete these tasks, finding it difficult to log in to a hospital computer and incorrectly logging times, The Morning Call reported.

A coworker anonymously reported Pieri, according to WNEP.

The patient, who is not being identified, was re-admitted following the procedure for stomach pain. It’s not clear if that admission was linked to the first surgery in any way.

Pieri’s status at the hospital also is unclear. A spokesperson told The Times Leader he was unable to comment on personnel matters.

Pieri has been a licensed registered nurse since March 1979 and had no previous disciplinary issues, The Times Leader reported, citing the Pennsylvania Department of State.