Phoenix, Arizona: The incapacitated 29-year-old rape victim who gave birth at Hacienda HealthCare last month is not in a coma and is able to recognize family and respond to them in a limited way, the attorney representing her said Friday.
“The important thing here is that contrary to what’s been reported, she is a person, albeit with significant intellectual disabilities. She has feelings and is capable of responding to people she is familiar with, especially family,” attorney John Micheaels told The Arizona Republicm Friday.
Micheaels said the woman’s condition was the result of seizures very early in her childhood. She is still on seizure medication.
The woman gave birth to a boy Dec. 29. Staff members told a 911 operator that they had not known she was pregnant.
According to court records, the woman, who is a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, has been a patient at Hacienda for 26 years. The records say the woman is “not alert” and needs a “maximum level of care.”
The woman’s rehabilitation potential, prognosis and potential for being discharged are always listed as “poor” in medical records that are part of her guardianship file in Maricopa County Superior Court.
The records also describe her condition as “flaccid quadriplegia,” but Micheaels said she is capable of some movement in her limbs as well as her head and neck.
“She does have some ability to move,” he said. He described her as “alert,” and while she does not speak, she does respond to sounds and is able to make facial gestures.
Her caregivers can tell when she is cooperating with them or is unhappy, he added.
“She likes being read to and being with people who are familiar to her.”
David Leibowitz, a spokesman for Hacienda, said patient privacy laws preclude him from discussing anything about the woman’s condition.
In the weeks since the Dec. 29 911 call, police and state agencies have launched investigations and the director of the facility resigned. The company also hired former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley to conduct an independent investigation into patient safety.
On Friday, the facility released a statement saying that two care providers, a registered nurse and a certified caregiver, had been suspended after another patient had made a claim of abuse.
The patient, described as having serious intellectual disabilities and a history of attention-seeking behavior, claimed to have been yelled at and struck on the head and arm.
Earlier this week, two Arizona state agencies ordered Hacienda HealthCare to pay for a third-party manager to oversee operations at both its intermediate care and skilled nursing facilities.
The facility on Thursday said it agreed with a directive from two state agencies that the best path forward would be identifying and retaining a qualified third-party manager.
The health and/or welfare of more than one patient at Hacienda is “endangered” and “immediate corrective action is required due to substantial and critical failures,” according to a Jan. 7 corrective letter to the facility from Arizona’s Medicaid program.
The state on Jan. 3 suspended new patient admissions to Hacienda HealthCare and in a letter dated Wednesday ordered the facility to hire a third-party manager.
The Phoenix Police Department obtained a court order to test the DNA of all male workers but said it cast a wide net in who is tested. Police were not specific about whether that would extend to visitors and other patients at the facility.