‘Isolated events’: Families of Hacienda HealthCare residents voice support for troubled facility

PHOENIX - Families and guardians of Hacienda HealthCare residents on Monday called the intermediate care facility a wonderful place, despite the rape of an incapacitated patient last year and moves by state officials last month to revoke its license for inadequate care.

“Losing this facility will destroy my son’s quality of life,” said Alan Strobel, a parent of a 30-year-old patient at the south Phoenix facility, said at a news conference. “Moving medically fragile patients like Logan could very well kill them.”

The Arizona Department of Health Services in June issued a license-revocation notice to Hacienda because of “inadequate patient care” after maggots were found around a surgical incision on the throat of a patient.

The state report came about six months after a 29-year-old patient at the center for people with intellectual abilities was raped and impregnated, according to authorities, by a worker. Prosecutors say a DNA test matched the baby boy to Nathan Sutherland, a nurse who was fired after his arrest. He faces trial for sexual assault and related charges.

Strobel and others who are content with Hacienda HealthCare said the incidents in December and June are “isolated events.”

Supporters “can no longer stand silent as the outstanding facility our loved ones call home, is unfairly attacked,” a news release said.

Supporters of Hacienda HealthCare said it is the best-run facility of its kind.

“There is absolutely no other place these people can go, probably, without dying,” said Karen Van Epps, a member of the Human Rights Committee of the Department of Economic Security’s division of developmental disabilities.

In a statement, the Department of Health Services said officials realize a revocation notice that could lead to a shutdown is worrisome for families with loved ones at the facility, “as this is the only home many of the patients have known.”

Hacienda HealthCare and other care facilities are one part of a growing industry that includes nursing homes, assisted living, at-home care and intermediate facilities for people who are disabled or aged.

Regan Smith, director of the ombudsman program at Arizona’s Area Agency on Aging, said people need to explore their options and examine potential financial resources long before they need help for themselves or loved ones.

“There are a lot of home and community services,” Smith said. “Arizona’s Medicaid program does provide home and community services for people who qualify for Medicaid so people can get services in their home, too.”

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