PHOENIX — Arizona's attorney general and a key state lawmaker are starting to speak out after a woman in a vegetative state for more than a decade gave birth at a Phoenix care facility.
The woman was being cared for at a Hacienda Healthcare facility when she gave birth on Dec. 29. Healthcare workers and family say they had no idea the woman was even pregnant.
Bill Timmons, the CEO of Hacienda Healthcare, resigned Monday effective immediately amid a Phoenix police investigation. The company said it will "continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement."
Gary Orman, executive vice president of the Hacienda Board of Directors, said after Timmons's resignation that Hacienda “will accept nothing less than a full accounting of this absolutely horrifying situation, an unprecedented case that has devastated everyone involved, from the victim and her family to Hacienda staff at every level of our organization.”
Gov. Doug Ducey's office, in a statement Friday, called the reports "deeply troubling."
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich called the incident disgusting on Monday.
"I think it's just absolutely abhorrent that someone in a vegetative state got pregnant," Brnovich said. "Obviously there was a sexual assault there."
Brnovich said his office could get involved, but for now they're leaving the case in the hands of local law enforcement.
"Quite frankly we want to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said.
Hacienda Healthcare is licensed by the state and receives Medicare funding.
State Representative Nancy Barto, who has spent eight years leading the senate's Health and Human Services Committee, said "we deserve an answer about what went wrong."
"It should be troubling to every parent that has a loved one in a group home situation," Barto said.
Barto, who has been working at the heart of the issue of assisted living for many years, says more oversight may be needed.
Last year, the legislature proposed allowing families to have surveillance cameras for patients in 24-hour care.
"There were a lot of barriers to getting it done," Barto said. "I think we're going to be looking at something like that again."
Barto says in the past Hacienda Healthcare has had a reputation as one of the best.
"People have walked over broken glass to get their kids and adult children into that place," she said.
While Phoenix police interview potentially dozens of employees and family members who have come into contact with the woman, questions are being raised about the care of medically vulnerable patients, helpless and voiceless.
"Families chose their placements very carefully," Barto said. "They want and they should expect safety."
As for its past record, Hacienda Healthcare fired a staff member in 2013 who made inappropriate sexual comments regarding patients. That was part of a state investigation.
Last year, according to state records, there were two allegations of abuse and one allegation of neglect that were investigated. It's unclear if anyone was fired over those complaints and if those claims were substantiated.
A source told 12 News Hacienda Healthcare has changed protocol since the woman gave birth, requiring that male staff be accompanied by female staff.