The care facility in Arizona where an incapacitated woman was raped and later gave birth will soon be closed, the nursing home’s operator announced on Thursday.
In a statement, the operator, Hacienda HealthCare, said it was working to determine exactly how it would move its patients from the Phoenix facility elsewhere and did not specify a location. It pledged to do “everything in our power” to ensure that the transition would be smooth.
A spokesman for the company said 37 patients would be affected.
“The Hacienda Healthcare board of directors, after a great deal of careful consideration, has come to understand that it is simply not sustainable to continue to operate our Intermediate Care Facility for the Intellectually Disabled,” the company’s statement said, adding that the board had voted on Feb. 1 to close the nursing center.
State agencies were notified of the board vote the same day.
Some state officials, though, reacted Thursday with surprise. They said that when they met with Hacienda officials on Monday, the company acknowledged the board’s vote, but did not provide notice to terminate its contract or provide a transition plan as required by its contract with the state. As recently as Thursday, state officials added, discussions about how to maintain patient care at the center were continuing.
“We find this announcement very concerning,” said Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for Gov. Douglas A. Ducey. “State agencies have been actively working to increase oversight at this facility to ensure patients are safe and well cared for. For some patients at the facility, this is the only home they know or remember. Forcing this medically fragile community to move should be a last resort. Everyone’s first priority should be protecting their health and safety.”
The announcement came about two weeks after a former nurse there, Nathan D. Sutherland, was charged with having sexually assaulted the woman. Mr. Sutherland, 36, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to that charge and to a count of child abuse.
Over the past several weeks, the case has rattled Arizona, raising concerns about the way patients in long-term disability care are treated and placing Hacienda HealthCare under intense scrutiny.
The criminal case started to unfold in late December, when a woman at Hacienda who cannot talk or walk unexpectedly gave birth to a boy. (The baby is said to be doing well and is in the custody of the woman’s family.)
Over the weeks that followed, the investigation became the main focus of the Phoenix Police Department, its chief said, and led to questions about the company’s operations and conduct. A DNA sample taken from Mr. Sutherland, who was assigned to treat the woman, was eventually found to match that of the newborn, the police said.
Earlier this week, Governor Ducey raised the possibility of deploying the state attorney general’s office in a wide-ranging investigation into the company. The governor requested an inquiry into how Hacienda employees did not know that the 29-year-old patient, who has been at the nursing center since 1992, had been raped or notice that she was pregnant, according to a copy of the letter he sent the attorney general, Mark Brnovich.
It was not clear Thursday what action Mr. Brnovich’s office planned to take in response to the governor’s letter. A spokeswoman for the attorney general has not responded to requests for comment.
In addition to investigating the woman’s case, the governor requested a broader investigation into Hacienda’s management, with a focus on possible financial fraud and “violations of Arizona’s civil rights act” in its company culture. Since 2016, the Arizona health agency that manages the state’s Medicaid program has been investigating $3.4 million in possible Medicaid fraud at Hacienda.
Since the assault case was made public, Hacienda officials have pledged to cooperate with local and state investigators, as well as work to regain the public’s trust. The company recently hired a former top prosecutor in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located, to conduct its own investigation into the assault.
Elisha Brown and Matthew Haag contributed reporting.
Source: Read Full Article