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Hacienda HealthCare to close facility after incapacitated patient gave birth

A nurse at Hacienda HealthCare was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting the patient.
Image: Hacienda Healthcare
Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix.Ross D. Franklin / AP

An Arizona long-term care facility where an incapacitated patient was sexually assaulted and gave birth will be closed, the company said Thursday.

Hacienda HealthCare's board of directors "has come to understand that it is simply not sustainable to continue to operate our Intermediate Care Facility for the Intellectually Disabled," the company said in a statement. Its skilled nursing facility will stay open.

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

The case came to light in late December after a 29-year-old woman who has been a patient at Hacienda for years went into labor and gave birth, authorities have said.

An attorney representing the woman's family has said that she has significant intellectual disabilities as a result of seizures very early in her childhood.

The statement said the Hacienda board voted on the move Friday, and that “we will begin to transition clients and eventually cease to operate the ICF-ID unit."

There are 37 patients in the facility, NBC affiliate KPNX of Phoenix reported. Hacienda HealthCare said it is working with state agencies to transfer the patients from the unit to other facilities.

"The care of our patients remains our top priority and we will do everything in our power to ensure a smooth transition for them and their families," Hacienda HealthCare said.

State regulators called the decision "disturbing news" and not in the best interest of patients.

"We encourage Hacienda to work with the state to find a path forward," the Arizona Department of Economic Security said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. "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."

The state had ordered Hacienda to hire a third-party management team to oversee daily operations, but Hacienda and the outside party could not come to a long-term agreement.

Sutherland is being held at the Maricopa County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail, according to online jail records.

The woman gave birth Dec. 29. DNA samples from numerous male employees at the facility were requested during the investigation, and Sutherland's DNA matched the baby's, police said.

Sutherland had worked at Hacienda HealthCare since 2011 but was fired after the company learned he had been arrested, police and the company said.

The family of the patient who gave birth said in a statement in January that "the baby boy has been born into a loving family and will be well cared for."