New York: Police in Phoenix have opened an investigation into allegations that a woman in a vegetative state at a private nursing facility was sexually assaulted and gave birth to a child last month, authorities said on Friday.
Sgt. Tommy Thompson, a spokesman at the Phoenix Police Department, said detectives were looking into the case at the facility, which provides long-term care for people with intellectual disabilities. Thompson declined to elaborate on how long the investigation had been open or other specifics about the case, which was reported Thursday by KPHO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Phoenix. The woman has not been publicly identified.
A spokeswoman at the Arizona Department of Health Services said the agency was aware of the allegations and had sent inspectors to check on patients at the institution, which is about 11 kilometres south of downtown Phoenix. The facility is part of Hacienda HealthCare, which its website describes as an organisation for some Phoenix-based health care programs and services.
“During this time, the agency has required heightened safety measures be implemented at the facility, including increased staff presence during patient interactions; increased monitoring of the patient care areas; and increased security measures with respect to visitors at the facility,” the spokeswoman, Melissa Blasius-Nuanez, said on Friday.
A Hacienda HealthCare spokesman said Friday that the organisation “stands fully committed to getting to the truth of what, for us, represents an unprecedented matter.”
“We have recently become aware of a deeply disturbing incident involving the health and safety of a Hacienda resident,” said the spokesman, David Leibowitz. “While federal and state privacy laws prohibit us from publicly discussing a patient’s health or case, Hacienda has and will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement and all the relevant regulatory agencies regarding this matter.”
Leibowitz said Hacienda had started “a comprehensive internal review” of patient safety and protocols.
The institution has at least 74 patient beds, according to federal records, and cares for people who have a range of developmental conditions and cognitive abilities. Some patients have been there for decades, according to state records.
In 2013, the Arizona Department of Health Services found that a male employee at the facility had mistreated some patients by making sexually explicit remarks about them. In one episode, his colleagues overheard him tell a patient that the patient was going to have a “happy morning” because the employee’s penis was erect, the state found.
In that report, investigators did not mention any instances of suspected physical abuse. The facility’s operators told the state that the male employee had been fired and new training on reporting patient abuse had been instituted.
In 2017, state investigators cited the facility for not providing privacy to patients while they were naked and being showered. One patient complained that he felt uncomfortable when employees freely walked into the shower room when he was naked, according to a state report.