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VA Nurse Scrubs into Surgery while Intoxicated

Update Date: Feb 29, 2016 09:37 AM EST
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A registered nurse in Pennsylvania reportedly scrubbed into an emergency surgery while intoxicated earlier this month, several news outlets have reported.

Richard Pieri, 59, who works at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, has been charged in Luzerne County with endangering the life of another person, driving under the influence (DUI), and public intoxication.

When investigators asked Pieri why he thought he was being interviewed, Pieri allegedly responded, according to the Washington Post, "I guess it has something to do with me being drunk on call."

Pieri reportedly told the investigators that he had completely forgotten that he was on call on Feb. 4. Before being paged to assist in an emergency appendectomy, Pieri had four to five drinks at the Mohegan Sun casino located at Pocono Downs. Instead of calling in sick, Pieri headed to the hospital.

The footage from the hospital parking lot showed Pieri stumbling and walking with an "unsteady" gait. At one point, the affidavit stated that Pieri almost fell. A co-worker described Pieri's behavior as "definitely not himself." He reportedly had a lot of difficulty signing on and using his computer, and smelled of alcohol.

All of his actions were "consistent with someone who is under the influence of a controlled substance or alcoholic beverages," the police detective with the Department of Veteran Affairs noted.

Despite the signs, Pieri was still able to assist in the surgery. The affidavit stated that he "was responsible for preparing the patient, retrieving the patient, preparing the materials inside the room, documenting the surgery, and monitoring the vitals of the patient throughout recovery."

The patient, who has remained anonymous, did not suffer any life-threatening complications from the surgery. He was, however, readmitted post surgery for stomach pains.

The VA statement sent to the Post read:

"[Pieri] has been removed from patient care responsibilities at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center where this alleged incident took place. If necessary, additional actions will be proposed as the investigation is completed.

Patient safety is paramount to all of us at VA and upon learning of the incident, we immediately confirmed patient care was not jeopardized. We are currently reinforcing training to ensure all employees are empowered to raise operational concerns and to prevent a future incident from occurring."

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