On January 4, 2019, Phoenix police opened an investigation into allegations that a female patient, who has been in a vegetative state for more than a decade, was raped at an Arizona private nursing facility owned by Hacienda HealthCare. The patient gave birth to a baby boy on December 29, 2018.
According to the company’s website, the Hacienda Skilled Nursing Facility, where the patient has lived since 2008, specializes in “comprehensive, individual, home-away-from-home care to children and young adults ages 45 or younger.”
The female patient who was allegedly sexually abused is a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and has been in a vegetative state for 14 years, after suffering a traumatic brain injury from a near-drowning incident.
An anonymous whistleblower who works at the Hacienda facility sparked the investigation that began last Friday. According to the whistleblower, the victim is a 29-year-old who requires “round-the-clock care.” Many of the facility’s employees had been allowed to enter and leave the patient’s room, but, given her state, the patient had no means of defense against any would-be attackers or sexual predators. Her life was solely in the care of the men and women who worked around her.
During a brief, televised segment with AZ Family, a Phoenix-based CBS affiliate, the anonymous whistleblower reported that “none of the staff were aware that [the victim] was pregnant until she was pretty much giving birth. From what I’ve been told she was moaning. And they didn’t know what was wrong with her.”
The victim’s newborn child, a boy, though born under tragic circumstances, is alive and healthy.
Police Use DNA Testing; Hacienda CEO Steps Down
On January 8, Phoenix police took DNA samples from the male employees of the Hacienda-HealthCare-owned facility as they continued to investigate allegations of sexual assault. In the 2 weeks that have passed since the alleged victim gave birth, no men working at the facility have been allowed into the rooms of female patients alone.
With DNA testing, the police aim to determine who the father of the child is and whether or not he works or has worked at the Hacienda facility. Such details will hopefully serve to confirm the allegations that the female patient was wrongly sexually assaulted and lead to an arrest and a prison sentence.
The choice made by Phoenix police to DNA test the male employees at the private nursing home facility came only 1 day after the longtime CEO of Hacienda HealthCare, Bill Timmons, resigned. In a company statement, Hacienda HealthCare noted that police investigators had served a search warrant to obtain the DNA, a move that the company supported. The statement read,
“Hacienda stands committed to doing everything in our power to bring this police investigation to a quick conclusion. We will continue to cooperate with Phoenix Police and all other investigative agencies to uncover the facts in this deeply disturbing situation.”
Unfortunately, the Hacienda Skilled Nursing Facility is only 1 part of a larger Phoenix-based network of care facilities owned by Hacienda HealthCare. In 2017, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMMS) rated nursing home facilities across the United States. In CMMS’s assessment, the Hacienda Skilled Nursing Facility received a “much below average” rating in its staffing and quality-of-care (On CMMS’s scale, “much below average” equates to a 1 out of 5 stars).
Is Abuse Like This Common in Nursing Homes?
When one hears the term “nursing home abuse,” one might think strictly in terms of elders who are a taken advantage of, neglected, or mistreated. This, of course, is only part of the picture. In reality, nursing facilities support a wide-range of people of all ages, from children to elders, including many who are living with impaired mental faculties and require constant care, and others who are recovering from traumatic injuries or relearning motor-function skills, etc.
Though “elder abuse” in its broader sense is shockingly common in nursing homes in the United States, sexual assault of both older and younger residents happens, too. As reported by The New York Times, the recent story of the Arizona woman giving birth is only the latest iteration in a sickening trend that has reared its ugly head 2 times before in recent history, in New York and Massachusetts.
For its part, Hacienda HealthCare has so far been cooperative with police efforts to conduct its investigation. In its statement, the company continued to reiterate its support of law enforcement while it works to uncover the truth.
“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 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.”
With all of that said, many might say that Hacienda’s statement comes too little too late, and that the damage has clearly already been done. With its facility rated at “much below average,” it’s obvious that Hacienda and its team still has a long way to go before it can begin to regain the trust of America’s patients.