Watch CBS News

Sex abuse probe after patient in vegetative state has baby

Police investigating possible assault at Arizona nursing facility
Police investigating possible assault at Arizona nursing facility 04:04

Phoenix police are investigating possible sex abuse at a nursing facility after a female patient in a vegetative state recently gave birth, CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO-TV reported. Sources tell the station a near-drowning incident at least a decade ago left the alleged victim in that condition and she's been a patient at the Hacienda HealthCare facility ever since.

She gave birth to a baby boy Dec. 29. KPHO-TV learned the baby is healthy.

"None of the staff were aware that she was pregnant until she was pretty much giving birth," a source familiar with the situation said.

"How were they alerted to the fact that she was going into labor?" reporter Briana Whitney asked.

"From what I've been told, she was moaning. And they didn't know what was wrong with her," the source said.

"There was a nurse that was there, and from what I've heard she's the one that delivered the baby," the source said.

The source says the patient required 'round-the-clock care and many people had access to her room.

"She had no way to defend herself in this sort of situation?" asked Whitney.

"No. None whatsoever. Not even able to communicate the fact that she was pregnant," the source responded.

The source said the facility changed its protocol this week.

"I was told that as of now, if a male staff needs to enter a female room, they need to bring in a female employee with them," she said.

Investigators from multiple agencies are saying next to nothing about the case, but KPHO-TV says it knows that, at some point last spring or summer, someone sexually assaulted a woman who was in a persistent vegetative state and she became pregnant.

Phoenix Police Sgt. Tommy Thompson said "the matter is currently under investigation."

Hacienda HealthCare spokeswoman Nancy Salmon released a statement to KPHO-TV saying, "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. 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 Health Services also released a statement. "We are aware of this situation and are actively working with local law enforcement in their criminal investigation," it 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. 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 Arizona Department of Economic Security said it is working fully with Phoenix Police. "Upon hearing of these allegations," the department added, "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."

Founded as Hacienda de Los Angeles in 1967, Hacienda HealthCare describes itself on its website as "the leading provider of specialized medical care and social services for Arizona's infants, children and young adults who are medically fragile or chronically ill, including those with developmental disabilities."

The organization says it offers dozens of programs and services through several nonprofit entities under its umbrella.

According to its website, Hacienda HealthCare serves more than 2,500 people throughout Arizona each year.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.