PHOENIX, Ariz. (NBC News) — Police in Arizona are investigating a long-term care facility after a report, based on a single anonymous source, that a woman who has been in a vegetative state for at least a decade gave birth.
Phoenix police would only say that “the matter is currently under investigation,” when asked about the report of a patient in a vegetative state at Hacienda HealthCare facility giving birth to a baby boy on Dec. 29.
An unidentified source told local station KTVK that caretakers weren’t aware the woman was pregnant until shortly before she gave birth, and a nurse only realized that the patient was in labor when she started to moan. The source, said by KTVK to be someone “familiar with the situation,” said the baby is healthy.
The source also said the patient has been in a vegetative state and at the facility for about 10 years after a near-drowning incident.
A person is considered in a vegetative state when they are awake but not showing any signs of awareness, according to the Brain Foundation.
Hacienda HealthCare said in a statement that “we have recently become aware of a deeply disturbing incident involving the health and safety of a Hacienda resident.”
The statement said Hacienda cannot comment on a specific person or case, but that its staff is cooperating with police and conducting an internal review.
“As an organization, Hacienda HealthCare stands fully committed to getting to the truth of what, for us, represents an unprecedented matter,” the statement said.
Hacienda HealthCare is privately owned and has more than 40 Phoenix-based health care programs that serve 2,500 people a year, according to its website. A majority of its patients are infants, children, teens and young adults.
Multiple governmental agencies, including police, confirmed that they are investigating the incident, but declined to give details.
The Arizona Department of Health Services said it is working with police in the criminal investigation and has conducted a welfare probe at Hacienda.
The health department has also required the facility to practice “heightened safety measures,” including “increased staff presence during patient interactions, increased monitoring of the patient care areas, and increased security measures with respect to visitors at the facility.”
The state’s Department of Economic Security, which promotes the safety and well-being of the population, said in a statement that it had performed a safety check on every patient residing at the facility and is working with police on the investigation.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s office has been informed of the situation and finds “the reports deeply troubling,” spokesman Patrick Ptak said in a statement, adding that as soon as the office learned of the report, state agencies were deployed to ensure patient safety.
“We are re-evaluating the state’s contract and regulatory authority as it relates to this facility and have been working closely with state agencies to ensure all necessary safety measures are in place,” Ptak’s statement said.