Fallout from Utah nurse arrest: Policy changes, apologies
“Nurse Wubbels was placed in an unfair and unwarranted positon. Her actions are nothing less than exemplary,” hospital CEO Gordon Crabtree said
By Brady McCombs
SALT LAKE CITY — Officials at a Utah hospital where a nurse was arrested after refusing to allow police to draw blood from an unconscious patient apologized that security officers didn’t intervene and said Monday that they have implemented policy changes to prevent it from happening again.
The announcements mark the latest fallout from nurse Alex Wubbels’ release last week of July 26 video from a Salt Lake City police officer’s body camera showing him dragging her from University of Utah Hospital and handcuffing her. The officer has been put on leave, and his agency has apologized.
Hospital CEO Gordon Crabtree said changes took effect in August that allow only senior nursing supervisors to speak with law enforcement and ban conversations with police in patient care areas.
Officials spoke publicly for the first time to make it clear that the hospital took action long before Wubbels released the video, said Crabtree, who called the officer’s actions out of line.
“There’s absolutely no tolerance for that kind of behavior in our hospital,” Crabtree said. “Nurse Wubbels was placed in an unfair and unwarranted positon. ... Her actions are nothing less than exemplary.”
Meanwhile, University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy said none of his officers at the hospital have been disciplined but will receive additional training in the wake of the arrest.
Wubbels has said she released the video her attorneys received through a public records request partly because she was unhappy that university police didn’t help her. She wasn’t immediately available for comment on the hospital’s announcements.
Brophy said that when he met with Wubbels and her attorney last Tuesday, he had not seen the video.
“It’s like seeing a picture or actually visiting a place — it’s completely different,” the police chief said. “It was clear that the arrest was completely mishandled and was inappropriate and didn’t need to happen. She had done everything she possibly could to make that situation work and she wasn’t rewarded for that.”
The video shows Wubbels, who works in the burn unit, calmly explaining that she could not take blood from a patient who had been injured in a car accident. A 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling said a blood sample cannot be taken without patient consent or a warrant.
Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne insisted, though police didn’t have a warrant and the unconscious patient was not a suspect.
The dispute ended with Payne saying, “We’re done, you’re under arrest” and pulling her outside while she screamed, “I’ve done nothing wrong!”
Wubbels, a former alpine skier who competed in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics, told The Associated Press on Friday that she was grateful for support from her supervisors and hospital staff but disappointed she was left to defend herself with no help from university police.
“This cop bullied me. He bullied me to the utmost extreme, and nobody stood in his way. And that should have originally been the job of security and the university police,” Wubbels said. “And they decided that when they showed up, they didn’t want to play for my team, and so they essentially put on the other guys’ jersey.”
Criminal and internal affairs investigations are underway to review Payne’s actions.
Payne hasn’t return messages left at publicly listed phone numbers. He wrote in a police report that he grabbed Wubbels and took her outside to avoid causing a “scene” in the emergency room.
He said his boss, a lieutenant, told him to arrest Wubbels if she kept interfering. A second officer put on paid leave has not been officially identified, but officials have said they were reviewing the conduct of Payne’s boss.
Wubbels, who was not charged, has not filed a lawsuit but her attorneys say that could change.