A woman who was in a vegetative state for 14 years gave birth inside an Arizona nursing facility, according to reports. Officials are now investigating a likely sexual assault.
A patient at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix went into labor and gave birth on Dec. 29, but the woman has been in a near-vegetative state after she was involved in a near-drowning incident from more than a decade, according to AZFamily.com.
A worker at the nursing facility said they had no idea she was pregnant until the patient entered labor. The female patient, who was not named in reports, has no ability to speak or communicate in any way.
“None of the staff were aware that she was pregnant until she was pretty much giving birth,” the unidentified staff member was quoted as saying by the outlet.
A near-drowning incident at least a decade ago left the alleged victim in that condition and she's been a patient at a healthcare facility ever since, a source tells CBS affiliate, KPHO-TV.
When asked how staff realized she pregnant, the person said, “From what I’ve been told she was moaning. And they didn’t know what was wrong with her.”
The AZFamily report said the baby is healthy.
Several staff members had access to the patient, who requires care 24 hours per day due to her condition.
But since the woman’s birth, the nursing care facility implemented a new rule that prohibits male staffers from entering without a female employee in the room.
On its website, the business describes itself as “Arizona’s leading provider of specialized health care services for medically fragile and chronically ill infants, children, teens, and young adults as well as those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
Hacienda HealthCare is the organizational “umbrella” for several Phoenix-based health care programs and services for infants, children, teens, and adults, the website states.
The Arizona Department of Health said it is investigating the matter.
“We are aware of this situation and are actively working with local law enforcement in their criminal investigation,” the statement said.
“Upon learning of the allegation, Arizona Department of Health Services (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,” it added.
“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 statement reads.
Hacienda HealthCare spokeswoman Nancy Salmon told CBS News: “Hacienda Healthcare has been in business in the valley for over 50 years, and has an outstanding reputation providing high-quality specialized care for our patients.”
— azfamily 3TV CBS 5 (@azfamily) January 4, 2019
According to her statement, “As a Healthcare provider, we cannot comment on any patient due to Federal and State privacy laws. Additionally, we cannot comment on any ongoing investigations. We can say that our patients’ and clients’ health and safety is our No. 1 priority and that we always cooperate, when asked by any agency, in an open and transparent way.”
The Arizona Department of Economic Security also stated that it’s working in tandem with the Phoenix Police Department.
“Upon hearing of these allegations,” the department stated to CBS, “we immediately dispatched a team to conduct health and safety checks on all members residing at this health care facility, which has been completed. We will continue to work to ensure the safety of all our members.”
Other details were not provided by police or other officials.
Nursing Home Abuse
According to the website Nursing Home Abuse Guide, “Over 3.2 million adults living in nursing homes and other long term care facilities in the U.S. As many as 40 percent of all adults will enter a nursing home at some point during their lives and as the U.S. population ages, the number of nursing home residents is expected to grow.
But, it added, Many of these elders are well-cared for but many may be the victims of abuse.”
“Nursing home abuse is a serious concern and seniors who have been abused have a 300 percent greater chance of death in the 3 years following the abuse than those who aren’t abused. Up to 1 in 6 nursing home residents may be the victim of abuse or neglect every year,” according to the website.
The website, meanwhile, cited a report to Congress that says nearly one in three nursing homes were cited for violations that had potential to cause harm to patients.