Phoenix police have opened an investigation into allegations that a woman in a vegetative state for more than a decade was sexually assaulted at a private nursing care facility — and recently gave birth to a baby boy.
Police spokesperson Sgt. Tommy Thompson confirmed to BuzzFeed News on Friday that detectives were looking into the Hacienda Skilled Nursing Facility but declined to provide further specific information, citing the ongoing investigation.
Local news outlets reported that the woman patient — who has not been identified — has been in a vegetative state for 14 years after a near-drowning incident. She reportedly gave birth to a baby boy on Dec. 29.
The story was first reported Thursday by AZ Family, a Phoenix CBS affiliate, after it was approached by a woman “familiar with the situation” who wished to remain anonymous.
The whistleblower, whose face was hidden and voice disguised for the televised segment, told reporter Briana Whitney she felt “anger and sadness” when she learned what had happened to the patient.
She said that the patient requires round-the-clock care, with many of the facility’s employees having access to her room, and that the woman had no way to defend herself or communicate what had happened to her.
“None of the staff were aware that she was pregnant until she was pretty much giving birth,” she said. She told Whitney that staff were alerted that something was wrong with the patient when she began to vocalize in pain. “From what I’ve been told she was moaning. And they didn’t know what was wrong with her.”
She said that a nurse on duty was able to deliver the baby boy, who is apparently alive and healthy.
The Hacienda Skilled Nursing Facility, where the patient has lived in a vegetative state for more than a decade, is part of the larger Phoenix-based Hacienda HealthCare system. The organization’s website said this particular facility provides “comprehensive, individual, home-away-from-home care to children and young adults ages 45 or younger” with “profound disabilities and complex medical needs.”
In an emailed statement to BuzzFeed News on Friday, a public relations representative for Hacienda HealthCare declined to provide specific information about the situation, citing privacy laws, but said that the organization had only recently become aware of “a deeply disturbing incident involving the health and safety of a Hacienda resident.”
“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 Hacienda 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,” the statement said.
Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) Director of Communications Melissa Blasius-Nuanez said in an emailed statement to BuzzFeed News that the department is assisting the police in their criminal investigation and mandating heightened safety measures at the facility.
“Upon learning of the allegation, ADHS immediately initiated an onsite complaint investigation to ensure the health and safety of the patients and ensure the facility is in compliance with all state laws and regulations,” she said, adding there will be “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 whistleblower told AZ Family that the facility had implemented new policy in the week following the birth, and that male staff were no longer allowed in female patients’ rooms unless they were accompanied by a female staff member.