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Arizona agency considers whether to move patients from Hacienda facility

(Public Domain Photo)

PHOENIX — An Arizona agency said the state is considering whether to move patients out of Hacienda HealthCare following an alleged sexual assault at the Phoenix facility.

The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (the state’s Medicaid agency) said patients have been contacted to “discuss their preferences and choices” and the agency would communicate with families “to make all options available.

“We are exhausting all efforts to bring this to a conclusion that best serves members and their families,” spokeswoman Heidi Capriotti said in a statement to KTAR News 92.3 FM. 

But Capriotti acknowledged in the Thursday statement that transferring patients would pose potential risks that must be considered.

“The state’s top priority is to protect the health and safety of our members,” the statement read. “Our preference is to address the issues identified at this facility in a way that ensures the health and safety of all members.”

ABC15 reported Wednesday that sources said calls were placed to health care providers throughout the state as a “preliminary step to check availability, expertise, and other factors” ahead of a potential transfer.

The report came on the same day that Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order directing three state agencies to develop protocols on preventing, recognizing and reporting abuse and neglect of people with disabilities.

Two days before the move, he had called on Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich to take legal action against Hacienda.

A 29-year-old incapacitated woman who has limited mobility and can’t speak gave birth at the facility on Dec. 29, prompting police to launch a sexual assault investigation.

Nathan Sutherland, a Hacienda nurse who cared for the patient during the time of the alleged sexual assault, was arrested on Jan. 23, after investigators said they matched his DNA to the baby’s.

He has since pleaded not guilty to the charges of sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult.

Since the sexual assault investigation, Hacienda’s CEO Bill Timmons has stepped down and the state has ordered the facility to hire a third-party manager.

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