Hacienda HealthCare facility will stay open, accept voluntary state regulation

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- A state government spokesperson says Hacienda HealthCare officials have expressed their intent to accept voluntary regulations from the state's Department of Health Services, meaning the facility will remain open.

Spokesperson Patrick Ptak says state agencies received a written confirmation from Hacienda, just before 4:00 p.m.

"This is good news and the best immediate outcome as it means Hacienda patients and families would be allowed to say in the home they've known for years while ensuring new and enhanced protections and oversight are put in place," wrote spokesperson Patrick Ptak, who went on to say state agencies will continue to work with Hacienda to implement a voluntary regulatory agreement, with strong oversight and accountability measures to ensure safety and quality care for patients, going forward.

In a statement released by Melissa Blasius-Nuanez with the Arizona Department of Health Services, ADHS will immediately start working with Hacienda to implement the agreement, which will require Hacienda to:

On Thursday, Hacienda HealthCare officials announced that it will begin to transition clients and eventually cease operation at its South Phoenix facility, known as the Intermediate Care Facility for the Intellectually Disabled, or ICF-ID.

"After careful consideration, the Board of Directors have come to understand that it is simply not sustainable for us to continue to operate our ICF-ID (Intermediate Care Facility for the Intellectually Disabled). Thus, we will begin to transition clients and eventually cease operation," read a memo sent to staff members, which was obtained by FOX 10.

On the same day, a representative with AHCCCS called the decision to close "disturbing" and encouraged Hacienda to find a path forward, saying the closure is not in the best interest of patients. Gov. Doug Ducey also weighed in on Hacienda's decision to close the facility decision.

"This is unacceptable, inexcusable," said Gov. Ducey. "They're under contract with the state. I've called for this board to be removed, and for top management to be terminated. I'd like to retain the good employees, the hardworking people at Hacienda, and get proper management in place."

Hacienda HealthCare has been the focus of international attention after a baby was born to an incapacitated woman at one of their facilities. A suspect, identified as 36-year-old Nathan Dorceus Sutherland, has since been arrested in connection with the incident. Sutherland was a licensed practical nurse who surrendered his license after his arrest, and he has pleaded not guilty in court.

In January, state regulators ordered Hacienda HealthCare officials to find a third party-manager for its facilities, and on January 30, officials with Indiana-based Benchmark Human Services say they have been contracted by Hacienda to act as a third-party manager.

On Wednesday, however, Courtney Heiser with Benchmark released a statement to FOX 10, saying the company failed to reach an agreement with Hacienda at the end of the week last week, and state officials had ordered the facility to outline, in detail, their plan to comply with all issued directives no later than the end of the week.

On Friday, before news that Hacienda will accept voluntary state regulation was announced, some whose loved ones are in the facility say they are upset about the closure.

"Hacienda, I have five years there. I like it. I'm not moving anywhere," said Rosalinda Garcia, whose disabled 47-year-old son is housed at the facility. "I'm looking at other places and no, that's bad."

Since the facility is not required to hold a state license, the state cannot intervene with the board's decision. A bill, however, is being crafted to close that loophole.

"This new legislation will allow the state to serve direct action, and in this particular place, if it were in effect, the state would take a more aggressive approach, and that's what we're looking to do," said State Sen. Heather Carter.

As the bill has an emergency clause, it could reach Gov. Ducey's desk in as soon as two weeks.

Click here for FOX 10's complete coverage of the Hacienda HealthCare scandal