PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Hacienda Healthcare is not at risk of losing its state license to operate. That’s because it doesn’t have one.

[SECTION: Hacienda HealthCare pregnancy investigation]

On Wednesday, the state issued a letter ordering Hacienda to identify a third party to take control as police investigate the sexual assault of a woman living in a vegetative state. The woman gave birth late last month.

“In general, most facilities would have a license,” says former Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, Will Humble. “That’s not the case with this facility.”

[RELATED: State orders Hacienda Healthcare to hire outside manager to run facility]

Humble says he was surprised to find Hacienda does not have a license, a requirement for most care homes.

“It’s specifically exempt by statute. That happened in 1997 so I don’t know why or how that came about,” says Humble. “But interestingly that’s a part of the equation here as state government tries to figure out what to do about their regulatory role as part of this investigation.”

[READ MORE: Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley discusses Hacienda Healthcare internal review]

Typically, the state can threaten to yank a facility’s license to operate, but in this case, the state cannot do that. However, the state can cut ties with Hacienda.

“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,” says Humble.

[ORIGINAL STORY: Woman in vegetative state gives birth at Hacienda HealthCare in Phoenix]

A spokeswoman with the Arizona Department of Health Services confirmed Hacienda does not have a license, but added the facility is Medicaid certified and that the state conducts inspections on behalf of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The spokeswoman was unable to immediately answer the question of why Hacienda is not required to hold a license.

Humble says he expects changes soon requiring all care facilities to hold a license.

“I’m guessing you’re going to see something change this legislative session,” says Humble. “Especially giving what we’ve learned already and what we will learn over time.”

State Senator Heather Carter is one of the state representatives pushing emergency legislation to remove the statute from 1996-1997 that exempts Hacienda Healthcare from a state license.

“We will put an emergency provision on the legislation so that as soon as it is passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor. It will go into effect immediately. And then the hope is that the rule-making process for the state licensing would also be expedited,” said Carter.

“We want to make sure that not only this doesn’t happen in a facility like this, but that it doesn’t happen anywhere, anytime, to any individual, particularly concerned about our most vulnerable population,” she said.


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