PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – What started as an Arizona’s Family investigation and exploded into a story with national implications has now spawned a new law to protect patients in long-term care facilities.
Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday signed SB 1211 into law. Designated as an emergency measure, the new law “establishes licensing requirements for intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.”
State Sen. Heather Carter sponsored the bill in the wake of breaking news from Arizona’s Family about a patient at Hacienda HealthCare who gave birth without anybody at the facility even realizing she was pregnant.
[TIMELINE: Hacienda HealthCare investigation]
A licensed practical nurse named Nathan Sutherland was eventually arrested and accused of raping the 29-year-old woman, who had been at Hacienda HealthCare since she was a young child. According to her family, the woman has "significant intellectual disabilities as a result of seizures very early in her childhood."
The woman gave birth on Dec. 29, 2018. Arizona's Family broke the story less than a week later and stayed on it, demanding answers about how a patient at a long-term care facility could become pregnant without anybody knowing it until she gave birth.
Several employees and board members resigned as the story unfolded and details emerged.
Carter’s SB 1211 was designed to close the loophole in the law that allowed that.
The new law requires facilities, like Hacienda HealthCare, “be licensed by DHS and certified by CMS by January 1, 2020.” CMS is the U.S. Department of Health Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
"Prior to this bill being in place, the state of Arizona acted as an agent of the federal government. So, if the state found something of concern, we would report that to the federal government, but did not have the statutory authority to take action," Carter said. "Now, with this new legislation, the state of Arizona can take action when it needs to."
She said the rules are in place to license Hacienda Healthcare, and that they hope in the next day, the facility will be inspected so it can have its full license by the end of the week.
"We want to address what was missing inside these facilities and make sure certain it is as safe a place for patients that are in the care of Hacienda as we possibly can," Governor Doug Ducey told us.
[SECTION: Hacienda HealthCare pregnancy investigation]