By Fred Barbash
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Sep 05, 2017 -
The University of Utah hospital where a nurse was manhandled and arrested by police as she protected the legal rights of a patient has imposed new restrictions on law enforcement, including barring officers from patient care areas and from direct contact with nurses.
Gordon Crabtree, interim chief executive of the hospital, said at a Monday news conference that he was “deeply troubled” by the arrest and manhandling of burn unit nurse Alex Wubbels on July 26. In accord with hospital policy as well as the law, she had refused to allow a Salt Lake City police officer to take a blood sample from an unconscious patient. Wubbels obtained a copy of the body cam video of the confrontation and after consulting her lawyer, the hospital and police officials, released it last week.
“This will not happen again,” Crabtree said, praising Wubbels for “putting her own safety at risk” to “protect the rights of patients.”
Margaret Pierce, chief nursing officer for the University of Utah hospital system, said she was “appalled” by the officer’s actions and has already implemented changes in hospital protocol to avoid any repetition.
She said police will no longer be permitted in patient care areas, such as the burn unit where Wubbels was the charge nurse on the day of the incident.
In addition, officers will have to deal with “house supervisors” instead of nurses when they have a request.
This will guarantee that nurses devote themselves entirely to patient care without interruptions, she said, while other officials deal with police requests.
The incident, which has attracted nationwide attention in part thanks to the dramatic video, involved Detective Jeff Payne, who persisted in demanding a blood sample from an unconscious truck driver at the hospital who had earlier been involved in an accident stemming from police pursuit of a suspect.
Hospital policy, as well as the law in Utah and nationwide, requires police to have a warrant or permission from the patient to draw a blood sample in such circumstances. Payne had neither.
After Wubbels politely and repeatedly read hospital policy to him and had a supervisor back her up on a speakerphone connection, Payne snapped. He seized hold of the nurse, shoved her out of the building and cuffed her hands behind her back. A bewildered Wubbels screamed “help me” and “you’re assaulting me” as the detective forced her into an unmarked car and accused her of interfering with an investigation.
On Friday, the department said two of its employees had been placed on administrative leave, pending the results of an investigation, but did not give details. A criminal investigation is underway, according to Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, and the city’s mayor and its police chief apologized to Wubbels in a statement.