Hacienda HealthCare closing facility where patient was raped, gave birth

Hacienda HealthCare announced Thursday that it is closing its 60-bed intermediate care facility, where a patient was raped and recently gave birth.

The non-profit company said the board of directors, “after a great deal of consideration, has come to understand that it is simply not sustainable to continue to operate” the facility, which is at 1402 E. South Mountain Drive.

Gov. Doug Ducey was quick to criticize the decision, calling the announcement, “concerning” because state agencies have been actively working to increase oversight at the facility to ensure patient safety.

“For some patients at the facility, this is the only home they know or remember,” Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said. “Forcing this medically fragile community to move should be a last resort. Everyone’s first priority should be protecting their health and safety.”

Officials with the Arizona Department of Economic Security were similarly upset by the announcement, calling it “very disturbing news” and imploring Hacienda HealthCare to work with the state moving forward.

“We want to find a path forward that is in the best interests of the patients — and this approach is not it,” an emailed statement from spokeswoman Tasya Peterson says.

“State agencies are exhausting all efforts to bring this to a conclusion that is beneficial to the patients, some of whom have been at this facility nearly their entire lives,” she said. “They are the ones who should come first, without question. This approach simply does not meet that test.”

Hacienda HealthCare says the board voted on the closure last Friday, which is also when the third party manager the company had brought on board as ordered by the state left Hacienda for good.

Indiana-based Benchmark Human Services was on site at Hacienda last week but company officials said that at the end of last week they, “reluctantly stopped this very important effort.” 

Hacienda HealthCare officials on Thursday said they will begin to transition clients and eventually will cease to operate the facility.

In its most recent federal survey, Hacienda’s intermediate care facility had 39 patients ranging in age from 16 to 68. Most were described as “non-ambulatory.”

“Given what happened recently it’s not surprising and I don’t think it’s going to break too many people’s hearts that a facility that did such a poor job of taking care of vulnerable adults is no longer in business,” said Jon Meyers, executive director of The Arc of Arizona, a non-profit advocacy organization that represents Arizonans with intellectual disabilities.

Myers added, but the problem is that families have no other private alternative in Arizona, which is yet another disservice to the individuals with intellectual disabilities who rely on them for care.

All the other intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities are operated by the state, and most don’t have the capacity to handle individuals who live at Hacienda, he said.

The state-run facility in Coolidge is likely the only option, and it may not be sized or staffed to handle an influx of individuals, Meyers said

The patient who gave birth is a 29-year-old member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. One of her Hacienda HealthCare providers, licensed practical nurse Nathan Sutherland, was arrested on Jan. 23 and charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable-adult abuse.

He surrendered his state-licensed practical nurse license on Jan. 24.

Hacienda HealthCare also operates a 74-bed skilled nursing facility for infants, children, teens and young adults on the 1402 E. South Mountain Ave. campus.

When the patient gave birth on Dec. 29, an employee who called 911 indicated that the staff did not know she was pregnant. 

Longtime Hacienda HealthCare CEO William Timmons stepped down Dec. 31 and assumed the role of president, but days later he left the company altogether. On Jan. 7, Arizona’s Medicaid program sent a letter to the facility calling for immediate corrective action, including:

  •  Sexually transmitted disease testing for all residents.
  •  Pregnancy testing for all females of childbearing age.
  •  An option for further testing for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, syphilis and HIV.

On Jan. 16, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System and the Arizona Department of Economic Security sent a letter directing Hacienda HealthCare to have a third-party manager in place to operate its skilled nursing and intermediate care facilities by Jan. 30.

The company agreed, but when the deal fell through, the state told Hacienda they needed to submit a plan by the end of this week.

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