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University of Utah Hospital changes protocol with law enforcement after nurse arrest

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SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah Hospital officials announced changes to its protocol with law enforcement on Monday after one of the hospital's nurses was arrested for refusing to allow an officer to draw blood without a warrant in July.

Among the changes, nurses will no longer work directly with law enforcement, said University of Utah Hospital CEO Gordon Crabtree.

The changes, he said, went into effect within days after Alex Wubbels, a nurse at the hospital, was arrested on July 26 after she refused to give a Salt Lake police officer vials of blood that he needed for an investigation of a fatal crash because she said he did not have a warrant or meet any of the mandatory criteria needed for taking blood.

"For our nurses and staff, this won't happen again and to that end, we are changing and have changed our interface protocols with our law enforcement — a move set in motion within hours of the event with my team," he said, speaking during a press conference of hospital officials. "Our care nurses and staff will not be the first point of contact with law enforcement. This type of situation won't happen again."

Margaret Pearce, University of Utah Hospital chief nursing officer, said law enforcement officers will instead have to work with hospital supervisors, who are more understanding of law enforcement codes. She added hospital officials won't interact with officers in a patient-care area also.

In addition, she said nurses and care staff will be removed out of the loop of law enforcement rules so they can focus their time solely with their patients.

Video of Wubbels' arrest was released Thursday, prompting national outrage. Two officers involved in the arrest, including the arresting officer Jeff Payne, were placed on leave Friday, Salt Lake police said.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown both apologized to Wubbels for the arrest. Wubbels, in a statement Friday, said she accepted the apologies and looked forward to working with them to "help promote further civil dialogue and eduction."

Pearce called the arrest "totally unacceptable" and commended Wubbels for what she described as "grace under fire."

"This situation, as traumatic as it has been for all of us, has reminded me of the outstanding nursing staff we have at the University of Utah," she said. "I'm incredibly proud of Alex. She did exactly what she should have done and what we would expect all of our nurses would do."

Crabtree said he spoke with Dale Brophy, chief of University of Utah Department of Public Safety, to ensure officers understand the hospital staff's primary role at the hospital is to protect patients and staff.

"Second, they have a duty to uphold and instill the confidence of those in our hospital that they serve," he added. "It's imperative that we act together with law enforcement. The protocols must be appropriate to ensure our patients and our staff have a place where they feel like they can heal and a safe place they can feel like they can work. Nothing less is acceptable."

Brophy said he did not see body camera footage of the arrest until Thursday, when it was released publicly. He said Wubbels should not have been arrested and the situation was poorly handled by police.

"This is not how law enforcement professionals should act," he said.

Crabtree said he hoped the changes implemented by the hospital can provide hospitals across the country a blueprint to avoid a similar situation.

"We simply will not let Alex down and any other exemplary faculty or staff who perform in such an exceptional way," Crabtree said.

This story will be updated as soon as more information is made available.

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