A Phoenix health care provider will continue to operate a nursing facility where a woman with significant intellectual disabilities was raped and, as a result, gave birth under the supervision of state officials.
Hacienda Healthcare agreed Friday afternoon to permit the Arizona Department of Health Services to exercise licensing authority over the Intermediate Care Facility for the Intellectually Disabled after state officials expressed concerns over the company's decision to shutter the facility.
"Given the high medical risks associated with transferring these patients, moving this medically fragile community is the option of last resort and not the state's goal," the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System and Department of Economic Security said in a joint statement. "We are confident that with ADHS exercising licensing authority, and a continued commitment by AHCCCS and DES to do everything they can to ensure the health and safety of members, this is the best immediate outcome for all parties involved."
The decision came a day after Hacienda Healthcare said in a statement that its board had voted on Feb. 1 to shut down the nursing facility.
"The Hacienda Healthcare Board of Directors, 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 for the Intellectually Disabled," the board said.
The Phoenix-based health care company said it had notified the state of the board's decision and was working to transfer clients to other facilities, but on Friday it agreed to reverse course and keep the facility open.
"Hacienda’s paramount priority is the safety and health of our patients," the board said in a statement Friday. "In light of the recent events, we have complied with directives from multiple state agencies and done everything in our power to ensure the safety and welfare of our patients."
The woman, who has been incapacitated as a result of childhood seizures, gave birth to a boy on Dec. 29. Staff at the facility had no idea the 29-year-old patient, who was in Hacienda’s care since she was 3 years old, was pregnant until she was giving birth.
Nathan Dorceus Sutherland, 36, a licensed nurse who was responsible for the woman's care, was arrested Jan. 23 after officials said a DNA test revealed he was the baby boy's father.
Sutherland faces one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse. He pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday, according to online Maricopa County court records.
According to police, the baby boy is being cared for by his maternal family.
In the wake of the incident, the state ordered Hacienda to hire a third party to manage the day-to-day operations at the facility.
In a Thursday statement emailed to BuzzFeed News, the Department of Economic Security, one of the agencies that required the health care company to contract with a third-party manager, called the company's decision to close the facility "disturbing."
"We want to find a path forward that is in the best interests of the patients — and this approach is not it," the department said in a statement. "State agencies are exhausting all efforts to bring this to a conclusion that is beneficial to the patients, some of whom have been at this facility nearly their entire lives. They are the ones who should come first, without question. This approach simply does not meet that test."
Hacienda said as a result of the incident has implemented several changes at the nursing facility, including the installation of dozens of cameras and monitors. The company said it also retrained staff members on abuse and neglect protocols.