PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK/CNN) - A medical care facility in Phoenix, where a 29-year-old woman who had been in a vegetative state for years unexpectedly gave birth, is facing consequences as the sexual assault investigation continues.
State regulators issued a letter Wednesday ordering Hacienda Healthcare to hire an outside manager to run the facility following visits that they say raised “several significant concerns.”
"Additional oversight is immediately warranted and necessary to protect the medically fragile patients at Hacienda and to assure their loved ones are safe and protected,” read the letter in part.
The facility has until Jan. 23 to obtain approval of a third-party manager, who will assume responsibility for overseeing day-to-day operations of the facility. By Jan. 30, the manager must be in place and overseeing operations.
A spokesperson for Hacienda Healthcare said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that the board of directors will be taking the letter “under advisement.”
"Hacienda Healthcare remains fully committed to ensuring the safety of its patients and to making sure that no patient receives anything but the best possible care … The Board is considering the best possible option forward - for Hacienda’s patients and their families, for the Hacienda team and for the organization,” read the statement in part.
Typically, the state can threaten to yank a facility’s license to operate if it has enough concerns, but in this case, the state can’t do that because Hacienda Healthcare doesn’t have a state license.
As the former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, Will Humble says he’s surprised to find the facility doesn’t have one.
"In general, most facilities would have a license. That's not the case with this facility,” he said. "It's specifically exempt by statute. That happened in 1997. So, I don’t know why or how that came about, but interestingly, that's a part of the equation here."
A spokeswoman for the facility was unable to immediately answer the question of why Hacienda Healthcare is not required to hold a license.
Though the state can’t threaten to revoke a license, it can cut ties with the facility.
“If the Medicaid agency has a contractual relationship with the facility and they decide they no longer want their members there, they could make that kind of decision which would, in effect, put the facility out of business if there are no patients to provide care for,” Humble said.
Humble says he expects changes in the near future to require all care facilities to be licensed.
"I'm guessing you’re going to see something change this legislative session, especially given what we've learned already and what we will learn over time,” he said.
A spokeswoman with the Arizona DHS confirmed Hacienda Healthcare does not have a state license but added the facility is Medicaid-certified and that the state conducts inspections on behalf of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Earlier this week, it was announced that former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley would lead an internal investigation into the facility, which fell under nationwide scrutiny after the 29-year-old victim became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy in late December.
Both the mother and baby are said to be recovering.
Police are investigating the case as a sexual assault. They obtained a warrant to collect DNA samples from all male employees at Hacienda Healthcare.