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"Drunk On Call"

Nurse at VA hospital assisted surgery while under the influence.

Published: February 24, 2016

UNDER THE INFLUENCE A VA nurse allegedly showed up for surgery after drinking the afternoon away at a nearby casino.

A Pennsylvania nurse was charged with reckless endangerment after assisting in an emergency surgery while intoxicated, police said.

Richard J. Pieri, RN, of Drums, Pa., allegedly arrived at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center on the night of Feb. 4 after drinking 4 or 5 beers while playing the slot machines at a nearby casino, according to published reports.

Security camera footage shows Mr. Pieri stumbling as he made his way to the medical center's entrance. A physician assistant noticed him struggling to log into the computer system and incorrectly time-stamping the procedure's start and end times. A nurse executive's report to police cited his odor of alcohol and slurred speech that night.

During questioning by police, Mr. Pieri admitted to being "drunk on call." Having forgotten he was on the call schedule, he'd gone to the casino that afternoon to play the slots and drink beer, then went home. When he was paged for surgery after 10 p.m., he said, he didn't want to leave another staffer on the hook for the assignment.

Mr. Pieri, 59, has been an RN since March 1979, with no previous disciplinary actions on his record, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State's license verification website. His preliminary hearing on the reckless endangerment charge, as well as DUI and public drunkenness charges, has been scheduled for March 29.

The patient had to be readmitted after the surgery for stomach pain, according to the affidavit. A VA spokesperson says Mr. Pieri has been removed from any direct patient care while this criminal case and investigation continue.

Mr. Pieri did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.

David Bernard

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