AP: Complaint made against Hacienda Healthcare facility in 2013 over sexual comments

PHOENIX (AP/FOX 10) -- The Associated Press is reporting that Arizona's online complaint database for care facilities shows multiple complains about a Hacienda Healthcare center, as the company faces mounting controversy over the birth of a child to a female patient who is in a vegetative state.

On Wednesday, Phoenix Police Sergeant Tommy Thompson termed the investigation a sexual assault investigation, and asked for information from members of the public pertaining to the case. The woman, according to a statement issued by the San Carlos Apache tribe, is an 29-year-old enrolled member of the tribe who has been in a persistent vegetative state for over a decade, and was a patient at Hacienda Del Sol in Phoenix. Sgt. Thompson said, during the news conference, that the woman and the child has been moved to an unnamed Valley hospital.

According to court records, a physical exam was done on the woman in April of 2018, where doctors "did not indicate any signs of pregnancy".

The woman gave birth eight months after the exam.

According to the AP, most of the complaints involve fire drill and evacuation preparation or Medicaid eligibility, but one complaint from December 2013 outlines an allegation that a staff member made inappropriate sexual comments about four patients two months earlier. Nobody relayed the incidents to an administrator. That employee was later fired.

In addition, FOX 10 has learned that state licensing records show staff at the facility admitted to a "bad habit and dignity problem", because some staff members would invade patients' privacy by entering shower rooms, while patients were nude.

Advocates for people with disabilities say Arizona needs to find a way to monitor allegations of sexual abuse and sexual violence in group settings. Doing background checks isn't enough, said Erica McFadden, executive director of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

"I think when you've had somebody who's had multiple allegations from different parties, there has to be some way to track that," McFadden said. "If it's the same story from different people, then there's something wrong."

The council recently formed a task force to look at how to improve training for health care workers when it comes to identifying and reporting sexual abuse.

"We don't have a systematic way to train people what's a good touch or a bad touch. We also don't have required training for providers," McFadden said. "We really need a lot of work in this area."

Jon Meyers, executive director of The Arc of Arizona, an advocacy group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, called the allegations "disturbing, to put it mildly."

"I can't believe someone receiving that level of constant care wasn't recognized as being pregnant prior to the time she delivered," Meyers said.

The incident has garnered global attention, and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has weighed in on the incident.

"I'm very troubled by the reports coming out of Hacienda Healthcare," said Gov. Ducey. "There is an ongoing investigation by the Phoenix Police Department, and I have confidence in them, and let's get the facts, and I want to get to the bottom of this, but very troubled by the reports."

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report

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