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State says Hacienda hasn’t complied with order to hire manager

PHOENIX – Contrary to an announcement made last week, Hacienda HealthCare apparently hasn’t yet complied with a state order to hire a third-party company to manage the Phoenix facility where an incapacitated woman gave birth late last year after being sexually assaulted.

A spokeswoman for Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (the state’s Medicaid program) said Tuesday that Hacienda hasn’t reached “a definitive agreement” with Benchmark Human Services.

“It is our understanding that Benchmark is not onsite,” Heidi Capriotti told KTAR News 92.3 FM in an email.

However, Hacienda HealthCare issued a statement saying the facility is under the direction of Benchmark and the state.

“Managerial authority resides with these third-party administrators,” the statement said.

Hacienda acknowledged that a deal with the Indiana-based company hadn’t been finalized.

“Hacienda was unable to reach a final contract with Benchmark in the short time frame imposed, as the vetting process was still underway,” the statement said.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey shed light on the hangup in a letter he sent to Attorney General Mark Brnovich urging the state to take legal action against Hacienda.

“It has come to my attention over the weekend that Hacienda claims it cannot afford the cost of Benchmark, with anticipated costs of $500,000, even though according to tax documents, it paid the prior CEO an almost $600,000 salary,” said the letter, which Ducey sent Tuesday. “These facts do not add up.”

After a woman who can’t speak and has very limited movement had a baby at the care center on Dec. 29, AHCCCS and the Arizona Department of Economic Security issued a list of demands to Hacienda HealthCare, including an order to have a third-party manager in place by Jan. 30.

Failure to comply could lead to the state terminating its provider agreement with Hacienda.

On the day of the deadline, it appeared a deal was in place.

Benchmark, which specializes in serving people with disabilities, said at the time it “has assumed oversight of the facility and is conducting a thorough assessment of the current operations.”

Now, the state wants answers.

“The agencies have demanded that Hacienda outline, in detail, their plan to comply with all directives issued no later than the end of this week,” Capriotti said.

Hacienda said it was determined to address the state’s concerns.

“We will continue to do everything in our power to keep our patients safe, to make sure they get the best possible medical care and to comply with directives issued by the state of Arizona,” the company’s statement said.

On Jan. 23, Phoenix police arrested Nathan Sutherland, a Hacienda nurse, after investigators said they matched his DNA to the baby’s.

On Tuesday, Sutherland pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault and abuse of a vulnerable adult.

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