Nurse accused of aiding in emergency surgery at Wilkes-Barre Veterans Administration Medical Center while under the influence of alcohol

By Joe Dolinsky - [email protected] | February 22nd, 2016 12:54 pm - updated: 4:30 pm.

PLAINS TWP. — A registered nurse is accused of assisting in an emergency surgical procedure on a patient at Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center while under the influence of alcohol.

Richard J. Pieri, 59, of 132 Edge Rock Drive, Drums, is charged with reckless endangerment, driving under the influence and public drunkenness. A summons was issued for him Monday, according to court documents.

The charges stem from a Feb. 4 incident in which Pieri allegedly staggered into the hospital and struggled through his duties before aiding in the procedure. Pieri was responsible for prepping and retrieving the patient, preparing surgical materials inside the operating room, documenting the procedure and monitoring the subject’s vital signs, according to the affidavit.

It was unclear Monday if Pieri was still employed at the hospital. Reached Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center said he was unable to comment on personnel matters.

Video surveillance obtained by police allegedly shows Pieri emerge from his Honda Ridgeline truck and collide with a concrete barrier while walking into the medical center just before midnight. He nearly falls after stumbling several times, the affidavit says.

A physician’s assistant claimed Pieri was “definitely not himself” that night, the affidavit says. He allegedly grew agitated after having difficulty logging onto a VA-issued computer and entered incorrect time stamps into the computer that documented the time the operation began and concluded.

The patient, who has not been identified, was readmitted to the hospital after the procedure due to stomach pains, the complaint says.

Asked during an interview with police why they would want to question him, Pieri allegedly said, “I guess it has something to do with me being drunk on call.”

Pieri later told police he consumed approximately four or five beers while playing slots at Mohegan Sun Pocono casino and had forgotten he was on call when his pager went off advising him of the surgery. He allegedly admitted to police he knew he wasn’t supposed to be part of a surgery while intoxicated.

Pieri has been licensed as a registered nurse since March 1979 and has no prior disciplinary action against him, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

By Joe Dolinsky

[email protected]

Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL