SALT LAKE CITY — Following the July 26 arrest of a University of Utah Hospital nurse, the hospital and the Salt Lake City Police Department have worked together to develop a new set of procedures for interactions between officers and hospital staff.
“When this event took place, I promised Alex I’d do everything in my power to prevent something like this from happening again. This policy is co-authored by the University and the Salt Lake Police. It represents our collaborative effort to ensure we have the best policy possible that respects the privacy of our patients and protects both our patients and staff. We work closely with law enforcement every day and we believe this policy helps us to move forward in a very positive way. We also hope it will provide a framework for other hospitals and law enforcement agencies throughout the state," wrote Margaret Pierce, University of Utah Health's Chief Nursing Officer, in a statement sent to FOX 13.
On Tuesday, Salt Lake City Police Chief fired Detective Jeff Payne, saying Payne "dramatically undermined public respect" and citing numerous policy violations in Payne's interactions with U of U Hospital nurse Alex Wubbels.
“Hopefully we can prevent escalations and any problems just through communication,” said Julia Beynom, Operations Dir. Critical Care, AirMed & Emergency Nursing at University Hospitals.
Under the new policy, officers needing to conduct police business with an inpatient will first make contact with the hospital's customer service office. The customer service office worker will then page the hospital's house supervisor. The house supervisor and a University of Utah police officer who works in the emergency department will then meet with the officer making the request.
“Before police officers were just kinda left to their own to figure out how to do things and where to go and who to ask," Beynom said. "This process just makes it really simple."
The policy states: "The officer will explain their needs, present any legal process (i.e., search warrant), if applicable, and complete the Law Enforcement Not In Custody Patient Access Form. The House Supervisor will facilitate the officer’s needs, as appropriate. If there is disagreement between the officer and the House Supervisor, both parties shall contact their respective supervisors to facilitate resolution. This policy does not apply when the Hospital has initiated contact with law enforcement and asked them to respond to the hospital. In these instances, officers will respond to the area requesting the police
response and follow standard Department protocol."
Patients already in the custody of Salt Lake City Police will be guarded per the department's regular guard duty procedures. If the patient is receiving emergency room treatment due to being the victim of a violent crime, an officer may enter without notifying the house supervisor.
The hospital will not interfere with officers guarding the bodies of deceased persons for evidentiary and chain-of-custody purposes.
Uniformed officers making a personal visit to friends, family, acquaintances, etc. will not be restricted, but may need to explain the nature of the visit if questioned by a member of the hospital staff.
“It allows the nurses to focus on patient care, which is what they need to be doing,” Beynom said.