Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Drunk VA Nurse In Surgery Room Still On Job
Washington D.C-Feb 29, 2016
The disciplinary process for a nurse accused of assisting a surgery while under the influence of alcohol could take more than nine months, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials have reported.
In an email to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, VA officials outlined a disciplinary process that would take at least 270 days if the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Plains Township decides to fire Richard Pieri.
Pieri, 59, of Drums, was charged with recklessly endangering another person, driving under the influence and other counts after police said he assisted a Feb. 4 surgery after consuming between four and five beers at the Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino earlier that evening.
The medical center initiated disciplinary action against Pieri on Monday.
The VA’s Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs responded by email to a letter from committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida,who asked why Pieri had not been fired after the charges were filed.
According to the email, once the VA’s Disciplinary Appeals Board begins the process for a “major adverse action” — including suspension, transfer or discharge — the agency must obtain all evidence relating to the alleged misconduct such as witness statements and videotapes. The human resources office then drafts a proposal notice which is reviewed by district counsel before it is issued to the employee.
Full-time employees must receive 30 days advance notice and part-time employees must receive 14 days notice of the proposed disciplinary action, according to the email.
“The minimum amount of time it takes is 270 days from the date of issuance of the proposed major adverse action; but it takes time to gather the evidence and write the proposal notice prior to its issuance,” the email reads.
The employee also has between seven and 30 days to submit a written or oral reply to the notice. A written decision should be issued within 21 days of the employee’s reply, VA officials said.
After receiving the decision, the employee has 30 days to file an appeal with the VA central office which starts an appeals process that could last 210 days.
Responding to the email in a statement Tuesday, Miller called the VA’s extended disciplinary process part of a “depressing saga” of a “federal service system designed to coddle and protect corrupt and incompetent employees.”
Miller had inquired about the shortest amount of time the process to discipline Pieri could take.
Congressman Jeff Miller
“It will take nearly a year to discipline Pieri for something he’s already admitted to,” Miller said. “Enough is enough.”
According to the charges against Pieri, police learned of the incident Feb. 11 when a nurse executive reported Pieri smelled of alcohol and had slurred speech when he showed up for the surgery. Pieri proceeded to participate in emergency surgery that lasted into the next morning, police said.
Surveillance footage shows Pieri getting out of his pickup and staggering on his way to the hospital door, according to police. Pieri appears to almost fall and walks into a large concrete barrier, police said.
at 11:54 AM