SALT LAKE CITY — University Hospital has made public a new policy for medical staff dealing with police officers.
The new arrangement results from a July 26 incident when nurse Alex Wubbels wouldn't allow a Salt Lake police officer to draw blood from an unconscious patient without a warrant, and was subsequently arrested and removed from her post at the hospital.
"Our nurse was dutifully following the appropriate, detailed organizational process to protect her patient, and we are incredibly proud of her actions," said U. Hospitals and Clinics CEO Gordon Crabtree and University of Utah Health chief nursing officer Margaret Pearce in a written statement.
Pearce said she "promised Alex I would do everything in my power to prevent something like this from happening again."
Wubbels had refused to allow detective Jeff Payne to take blood from an unconscious patient who had been in an explosive vehicle accident in Cache County earlier that day.
According to police body camera footage, Wubbels had told Payne the patient wasn't under arrest, didn't have a warrant to obtain blood and that an unconscious patient could not consent to the procedure. Payne arrested Wubbels on order of his watch commander, Lt. James Tracy.
Because of what the statement calls a "shared role with community law enforcement to manage life-and-death circumstances," university officials collaborated with Salt Lake police to develop a newly clarified policy. The result, Pearce said, "respects the privacy of our patients and protects both our patients and our staff."
The policy outlines proper procedure for law enforcement activity, including blood draws, warrant service, evidence collection, etc., at the hospital and nearby Huntsman Cancer Hospital. Henceforth, when officers respond to the facility for business with a patient not in custody, they will be required to contact the hospital's Customer Service Office, which will locate the on-duty house supervisor. Officers must explain their needs, present legal process and complete a form to access the patient. The house supervisor will facilitate the officer's needs, as appropriate, according to the written policy.
Payne, who had worked with the department 27 years, was fired Tuesday and Tracy was demoted. Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown wrote in a decision letter that the two officers failed to treat all citizens "equally with courtesy, consideration and dignity," and violated multiple department policies.
"You demonstrated extremely poor professional judgment (especially for an officer with 27 years of experience), which calls into question your ability to effectively serve the public and the department," Brown wrote, also saying the officer "inappropriately acted against Ms. Wubbels."
The two officers have four days to appeal the administrative action.