Arizona officials investigate after patient in nursing facility gives birth

PHOENIX – A health care facility in Arizona is under heightened security after a patient with intellectual disabilities reportedly became pregnant and gave birth Dec. 29. on Thursday reported that a woman who was left in a vegetative state after a near-drowning more than 10 years ago became pregnant while she was a patient at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix.

The Arizona Department of Health Services on Friday confirmed that the woman was a patient at Hacienda de los Angeles. State licensing records describe the facility as a 60-bed intermediate care facility for people with intellectual disabilities.

Officials with the state health department say that in the wake of the report, the facility is required to have heightened security measures to ensure the safety of its patients. That heightened security includes increased staff presence during patient interactions, increased monitoring of patient care areas, and increased security measures with respect to visitors to the facility, state health officials said.

"We are aware of this situation and are actively working with local law enforcement in their criminal investigation," a department statement says.

Likewise, another state agency that serves disabled clients issued a statement saying it did health and safety checks on all of the residents at the health care facility after the birth was reported.

But it was unclear Friday what the Department of Economic Security found during its checks, other than to say its review is completed. DES did not immediately respond to a request seeking follow-up actions, if any.

DES said it is working with the Phoenix Police Department on its investigation. The police have acknowledged they are working on the matter but have not commented further.

Situation 'unprecedented'

In response to questions about the incident from The Arizona Republic, Hacienda HealthCare issued a written statement through media spokesman David Leibowitz, calling the situation "unprecedented."

“Hacienda HealthCare has been in business in Arizona for more than 50 years. In that time, we have reliably and safely served thousands of residents and their families. We are proud of our record and our position as an industry leader in caring for the intellectually and developmentally disabled," the statement says.

“With that said, we have recently become aware of a deeply disturbing incident involving the health and safety of a Hacienda resident. While federal and state privacy laws prohibit us from publicly discussing a patient’s health or case, Hacienda has and will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement and all the relevant regulatory agencies regarding this matter.

“As an organization, Hacienda HealthCare stands fully committed to getting to the truth of what, for us, represents an unprecedented matter. We are already conducting a comprehensive internal review of our processes, protocols, and people to ensure that every single Hacienda resident is as safe and well cared for as possible. Anything less than that is unacceptable to our team, our company’s leaders and the communities we serve.”

State licensing records show Hacienda de los Angeles was recertified in August as a provider for people covered by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which is Arizona's Medicaid program, a government insurance program for low-income people. The facility was re-certified following an on-site survey conducted in June, records show.

In December 2013, Hacienda de los Angeles administrator William Timmons received a letter from the state saying the facility was out of compliance with federal Medicare and Social Security Act standards for staff training and staff treatment of clients. One of the complaints said that a staff member was making inappropriate sexual comments about the clients.

The facility later submitted an acceptable plan of correction, records show, and told state investigators that the offending staff member had been fired.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona officials investigate after patient in nursing facility gives birth