The Salt Lake City hospital where a police officer roughly arrested a nurse who was protecting her patient’s rights in July will no longer allow law enforcement agents inside its patient care areas. They’ll now have to check in, rather than enter through the emergency room.
“Law enforcement who come to the hospital for any reason involving patients will be required to check in to the front desk of the hospital,” said chief nursing officer Margaret Pearce of the University of Utah Hospital. “There, a hospital house supervisor will meet the officers to work through each request.”
Hospital officials say they created the policy one day after the July incident in which nurse Alex Wubbels refused to allow a police investigator identified as Jeff Payne to get a blood sample from a patient who was injured in a deadly collision with another driver. Wubbels was following the hospital’s policy (and a recent Supreme Court decision) that requires either a warrant, the patient’s consent, or the patient being under arrest for such a sample to be obtained legally.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment bars blood tests from being obtained without a warrant in drunken-driving cases.
“Our hospital continues to offer our full support to Alex,” said Gordon Crabtree, the hospital system’s CEO. “I think many of you know she is an Olympian and to us she’s truly an Olympic-size hero. We extend our appreciation for her dedication and service.”
While Wubbel’s superiors said she had shown professional integrity and grace under fire, the officer’s bosses and Salt Lake City’s mayor have issued apologies for his behavior. He is on administrative leave while the case is being investigated.
Having failed to persuade Wubbels to allow him to obtain blood from the patient, the officer begins grabbing at the nurse and he forcefully pulls her outside the hospital as she yells for help. He then handcuffs her. Wubbels was then put in a police car parked at her hospital.
“Our team was advocating for the immediate release of Alex and was ultimately successful in getting her released from the handcuffs and the car,” Crabtree, CEO, University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics said on Monday. “Alex was never charged and will not have a record.”
Other hospitals will likely want to adopt similar policies to prevent police overreach, Crabtree said.
Pearce said she was “appalled” at the encounter. She added:
“We are a Level 1 Trauma Center with the only dedicated burn unit in the Mountain West region and we have some of the sickest patients anywhere. Because of this, we work with law enforcement on a regular basis for a variety of reasons and will continue to do so. However, I consider the way in which Alex was treated to be totally unacceptable. No individual in a role of patient care should ever be treated in this fashion.”