Internal Review of 'Horrendous Facts' in Comatose Woman's Pregnancy at Ariz. Facility
A former Arizona county attorney will lead an internal investigation into Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix, which operates a nursing facility where a female patient in a long-term vegetative state gave birth to a child last month.
At a press conference Monday, former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley said he was hired by the company to do an independent review of the “facts and circumstances” surrounding the birth of the baby as the result of a sexual assault.
“We’ve got a number of patients, some of the most vulnerable in our society,” said Romley. “They need to be taken care of and there needs to be assurances…that this organization is going to do everything that it takes to correct the horrendous facts that led up to the impregnation of the young woman.”
Romley, who will be assisted by an independent health care professional, says his first priority will be to look at the facility’s security “to make sure this never happens again.”
The patient, who has been identified as a 29-year-old Native American, gave birth on Dec. 29 at the facility. She had been under the care of the facility since she was between ages 2-3, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.
According to the documents, she “lacks sufficient understanding and mental capacity to make decisions or give consents for her medical, placement or financial estate” and suffers from quadriplegia, recurrent pneumonia and a seizure disorder.
Phoenix police have launched a criminal investigation into the sexual assault but have not made any arrests in the case.
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The baby, who is now 17 days old, and his mother are currently recovering at a local hospital.
Romley says his probe will be exhaustive and plans to make his findings public.
“I’ll be looking at their safety audits,” he says. “I’ll be looking at complaints. I’ll be looking at the protocols. All of that’s open. They have given me absolutely assurances that the books are open to me.”
According to the court documents obtained by PEOPLE, the woman’s last annual exam by a doctor took place on April 16, 2018, more than eight months prior to the child’s delivery.
Romley’s review, he says, will also include interviews with the staff doctors.
“We all understand what the questions are,” he says. “We all understand how could this have not been identified earlier? What happened here? All of those things I’m going to try to ferret out.”
Asked if he thought the possible assailant would be identified, Romley responded: “I cannot give you that. I know this is kind of the ultimate detective story of whodunnit, I just hope and pray, quite frankly ’cause, quite frankly, the person’s a little sick.”