PHOENIX (AP) — A health care company’s decision to close a Phoenix facility where an incapacitated woman was raped and later gave birth drew criticism Friday from state officials. The closure would force numerous patients to be relocated to a new facility.
State regulators said Hacienda HealthCare’s announcement that it would shut its intermediate care facility contractually requires written consent from the state Department of Economic Security. “This was not our preference,” department spokeswoman Heidi Capriotti said. “We had hoped they were going to comply with our directive to bring a third-party manager on and have that in place.”
The letter, signed by the directors of the state’s Medicaid program and the Department of Economic Security, gave Hacienda’s board of directors until 4 p.m. Friday to answer questions about the closure decision. Capriotti said it’s not clear what the state will do if officials fail to meet the deadline. In the meantime, the state is working on contingency plans if the closure goes through. Capriotti declined to discuss details.
The facility has been in turmoil since a 29-year-old patient gave birth on Dec. 29. Nathan Sutherland, a nurse whose DNA police said matches a sample from the baby, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he raped her.
Hacienda has struggled to meet the state’s request to hire a third-party management team to oversee daily operations. The provider said in a statement that its board “after a great deal of careful consideration, has come to understand that it is simply not sustainable to continue to operate our intermediate care facility.” A skilled nursing facility that shares the campus will remain open.
The state, however, renewed its calls for Hacienda to settle on an outside management team. Their only other option, officials said, would be to agree to allow the state Department of Health Services to hold licensing authority over the facility.
Hacienda operates the only privately-run intermediate care facility in Arizona. It currently serves 37 intellectually disabled children and adults, some of whom are considered “medically fragile.” Hacienda officials say it would take weeks or months to transition all of them to other places.
Will Humble, a former director of the Department of Health Services, said there is no “one size fits all” solution for relocating everyone. “One of the things to remember is that each individual person has individual needs,” Humble said. While some may require an intermediate care facility, others could qualify for placement in a community residential setting, depending on their medical and behavioral needs.
Despite Hacienda’s declaration, Humble thinks there is still a chance the closure might not happen. “It sounds to me like the state is trying to work with them to not have that happen,” Humble said. “Maybe they’ll come up with another path.”