Arizona center where incapacitated woman gave birth gets state oversight to avoid closing

The state said it wanted to avoid the closing of the Hacienda HealthCare Center and "moving this medically fragile community."
Image: Hacienda Healthcare
Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix.Ross D. Franklin / AP

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By Doha Madani

The Arizona long-term care center where an incapacitated patient gave birth has conceded to state oversight as a way to stay open rather than close its doors.

The state said keeping Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix open protects its vulnerable patients.

"Given the high medical risks associated with transferring these patients, moving this medically fragile community is the option of last resort and not the state's goal," the Arizona Department of Health said in a statement Friday.

The announcement that the health care center had agreed to state oversight came a day after Hacienda said it was closing its facility for the intellectually disabled because keeping it open was "not sustainable."

The health care company has been under scrutiny since a 29-year-old incapacitated woman gave birth in late December, with staff not realizing she was pregnant. Police began an investigation soon after.

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A former nurse at Hacienda, Nathan Sutherland, 36, was arrested Jan. 22 and charged with sexual assault. He has pleaded not guilty.

In a statement Friday, Hacienda said it has "complied with directives from multiple state agencies and done everything in our power to ensure the safety and welfare of our patients."

Hacienda's Phoenix facility said it has now installed dozens of cameras and hired off-duty police officers to provide security.

Now, the facility in Phoenix will be required to hire a third-party health care consultant to evaluate oversee the operations, and an on-site evaluator will supervise any necessary changes to the facility.

It will also be required to find an independent review team and develop a long-term plan within 90 days to implement changes that prioritize patient health and safety, the state health department said.

Some families of patients had been distressed over the possibility of the facility's closing on short notice.

Heidi Reid-Champigny told NBC News Friday that her 55-year-old brother moved to the Hacienda center eight years ago after he suffered multiple injuries at a state-operated group home.

"I'm now worried about him because he is so well cared for" there, Reid-Champigny said.

"It's completely inappropriate that they would close," she said. "The only thing that Hacienda is guilty of is trusting someone that we had no reason not to trust."