- Associated Press - Friday, March 1, 2019

PHOENIX (AP) - A former top Phoenix prosecutor said Friday that he quit an internal investigation of a health care facility, where an incapacitated woman was raped and later gave birth, because of concerns about its leadership.

Nearly two months after he was hired by Hacienda HealthCare to look into how a patient was sexually assaulted, former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley terminated his contract. His departure was among a mass exodus of Hacienda employees, including the CEO. Several senior staff members and two board members, including the longtime director, also resigned.

“When I started this assignment, I made it very clear if I was not able to conduct my work with complete objectivity and if any issue came up that caused me any concerns, I would terminate my contract,” Romley said.

Romley said his issues were with Hacienda’s board of directors but declined to elaborate. He also could not share details from the partially completed review because it involved records that belonged to Hacienda. It was unclear if anyone would resume the investigation he started.

Romley said he believes several employees who quit would come back if there was an entirely new board.



“If they really cared about the patients and the organization, they would consider resigning,” Romley said.

In a statement Friday, Hacienda’s board of directors confirmed an employee shakeup of firings and resignations. Patrick White, who stepped in as CEO in January, and the directors of clinical and patient services were all terminated Thursday, the board said. Several others, including the chief financial officer, director of nursing and vice-president of corporate communications, gave two weeks’ notice.

The facility will “continue to be managed by a third-party manager and her staff, subject to ongoing negotiations with the Arizona Department of Health Services,” according to the board’s statement. “To date, no patient’s care or safety has been compromised by any of these changes.”

The organization said it is seeking to fill the positions of board president and an undisclosed number of board seats.

The facility’s embattled operators agreed in February to be regulated by the state. They initially planned to close down the unit altogether after an agreement with new third-party managers fell apart.

Patrick Ptak, Gov. Doug Ducey’s spokesman, said Arizona Department of Health Services employees have been monitoring the facility on-site. He also said the multiple resignations this week should not affect patient care.

Hacienda has been through massive upheaval since a 29-year-old patient gave birth Dec. 29 to the shock of employees. Its CEO stepped down. One doctor was dismissed and another suspended from providing medical services there.

Phoenix police launched a criminal investigation that led to the arrest of a nurse, Nathan Sutherland. Investigators said DNA from Sutherland, 36, matched a sample taken from the newborn. He has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse.

The facility has since bolstered security measures. They include the installation of dozens of cameras and monitors, enhanced security and retraining for every staff member on identifying and reporting abuse and neglect.

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