Facility’s CEO resigns after vegetative patient gives birth

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PHOENIX | Police served a search warrant Tuesday to sample DNA from all male employees employed for a long-term care facility in Phoenix where a patient who had been in a vegetative state for a decade gave birth, triggering reviews by state agencies and placing a spotlight on safety concerns for patients who are severely disabled or incapacitated.

Hacienda HealthCare said it welcomed the DNA testing of employees.

This Friday, Jan. 4, 2019, photo shows Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix. The revelation that a Phoenix woman in a vegetative state recently gave birth has prompted Hacienda HealthCare CEO Bill Timmons to resign, putting a spotlight on the safety of long-term care settings for patients who are severely disabled or incapacitated. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

“We will continue to cooperate with Phoenix Police and all other investigative agencies to uncover the facts in this deeply disturbing, but unprecedented situation,” the company said in a statement.

Local news website Azfamily.com first reported the woman, who had been in a coma for more than 10 years after a near-drowning, delivered a baby on Dec. 29. She has not been identified, and it’s not known if she has a family or a guardian. It’s also unclear if staff members at the Hacienda de Los Angeles facility were aware of the pregnancy until the birth.

In a statement, board member Gary Orman said the facility “will accept nothing less than a full accounting of this absolutely horrifying situation.”

“We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety of every single one of our patients and our employees,” Orman said.

Hacienda CEO Bill Timmons resigned Monday, spokesman David Leibowitz said. The decision was unanimously accepted by the provider’s board of directors.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s office has called the situation “deeply troubling.”

Phoenix police so far have declined to comment.

The Hacienda facility serves infants, children and young adults who are “medically fragile” or have developmental disabilities, according to the website. In the wake of the reports, the Arizona Department of Health Services said new safety protocols have been implemented. They include increased staff presence during any patient interaction, more monitoring of patient care areas and additional security measures involving visitors.

The state’s online complaint database for care facilities shows multiple complaints about Hacienda de Los Angeles going back to 2013. Most of them involve fire drill and evacuation preparation or Medicaid eligibility. But one complaint from December 2013 outlines an allegation that a staff member made inappropriate sexual comments about four patients two months earlier. Nobody relayed the incidents to an administrator. That employee was later fired.