Utah hospital restricts police access after nurse's arrest

The University of Utah Hospital is enacting new restrictions on law enforcement officials following the controversial arrest of a Utah nurse who refused to draw blood from an unconscious patient.

Instead of interacting with nurses as a first point of contact, police will now make requests to “house supervisors,” who are highly trained in medical laws and hospital rules, medical officials said Monday. Additionally, police will no longer have access to patient-care areas.

Margaret Pearce, chief nursing officer for the University of Utah hospital system, said the job of nurses “is to take excellent care of the patients.” She added, “We never want them to leave patient care to deal with a police officer issue … so we are taking them totally out of the loop.”

The new policy, announced at a news conference Monday, follows the July 26 arrest of nurse Alex Wubbels after she refused to allow police to draw blood from an unconscious crash victim in accordance with hospital policy and the law. The incident has attracted national attention after dramatic body cam footage of the confrontation was released last week.

“I need to make sure this never, ever, ever happens to another one of our care providers again,” Pearce said, calling the officer’s treatment of Wubbles “appalling” and “totally unacceptable.”

Pearce said the new policies had already been put into place, before the incident went public, to prevent similar situations. So far, 2,500 nurses have been trained in the new rules.

Gordon Crabtree, interim chief executive of the hospital, said he was “deeply troubled” by Wubbles’ arrest.

Praising Wubbles’ strength and devotion to patients’ privacy and safety, Crabtree said, “her actions are nothing less than exemplary. She handled the situation with utmost courage and integrity.”

“This type of situation won't happen again,” Crabtree said. “We simply will not let Alex down.”