Ex-prosecutor tapped to review how woman in vegetative state gave birth

Hacienda HealthCare says it will turn over all records related to the patient in a vegetative state who gave...

Posted: Jan. 15, 2019 2:42 AM
Updated: Jan. 15, 2019 2:42 AM

Hacienda HealthCare says it will turn over all records related to the patient in a vegetative state who gave birth inside its facility last month.

As part of its internal review, the Arizona facility will also divulge all operational procedures related to the unit where she was a patient, according to a statement from the Hacienda HealthCare board of directors.

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The board announced Sunday the hiring of former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley to lead the internal review. The facility's employees will continue to cooperate with the Phoenix Police Department, whose investigators have begun to gather DNA from men who work at the facility.

"We will do everything we can to aid this review and, once it is complete, to make sure this unprecedented situation never, ever happens again," the board's statement said. "As an organization, our top priority is to quickly identify the perpetrator and to make sure that person is brought to justice."

The patient, 29, gave birth December 29 at the facility for people in need of long-term medical care. Caregivers were taken by surprise at the birth, telling 911 dispatchers, "We had no idea she was pregnant."

Police have said the baby was in distress when it was born, but they haven't said whether the woman had a full-term pregnancy.

Medical records say the woman had an external exam on April 16. The doctor notes her "firm belly" in the abdomen section. There were no notes about a pelvic exam, or urine or blood tests on the forms.

The doctor had given the woman her physicals since 2009, when a court appointed her mother as legal guardian.

CNN is not reporting the woman's name because police are investigating the case as a sexual assault.

She had been at the facility since 1992, according to records. The woman has a breathing tube and a feeding tube, the records show. In March, she weighed 112 pounds.

"This woman was unable to move, she was unable to communicate. In other words, she was helpless," Phoenix police Sgt. Tommy Thompson said. "This started as a sexual assault investigation from day one."

Speaking to reporters Monday, Romley said he has no subpoena power, but he will be examining management practices and the overall security of the facility. The Hacienda board has accepted his proposal to hire a health care professional to work alongside him during the review.

The former prosecutor will share his findings with the board and local police, he said, and he has recommended the findings be made public in an effort to restore public faith in the company.

When he was contacted last week to gauge his interest in spearheading the internal review, Romley told the board, "I wouldn't be one to bury things during this review." The board assured him his findings would be taken seriously, he said.

"They have given me absolute assurances that their books are open to me," he said. "The facts will lead where they lead."

The review could take two to three months, he said, though he couldn't be sure. His contract has no termination date, he said.

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