The case of an American woman who gave birth in a vegetative state has prompted the resignation of the CEO of the private health facility where she was in care.
Hacienda HealthCare CEO Bill Timmons stepped down on Monday, spokesman David Leibowitz said. The decision was unanimously accepted by the provider’s board of directors.
The troubling case in the US state of Arizona has put a spotlight on the safety of long-term care settings for patients who are severely disabled or incapacitated.
Local news website Azfamily.com first reported the woman, who had been in a vegetative state for more than 10 years after a near-drowning, gave birth to a baby on December 29.
Her identity has not been reported, and it’s not known if she has a family or a guardian.
It’s also unclear if staff members at the Hacienda de Los Angeles facility were unaware of the pregnancy until the birth.
The media outlet reported the baby is alive and healthy, but a local doctor slammed the lack of prenatal care given.
“This was an extremely dangerous situation with no monitoring,” Dr Greg Marchand told Azfamily.com.
“It could have been an active labour for hours or even days. This easily could have resulted in a foetal death.”
The birth has triggered a police investigation and reviews by state agencies. Phoenix personal injury lawyer Martin Solomon said police would lead DNA testing to figure out who fathered the baby.
He added it would be hard for Hacienda to escape any kind of liability in court.
“There’s a lot of information we do not have, but things like this don’t happen without someone either knowing about it or should have known about it,” Mr Solomon said.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s office has called the situation “deeply troubling.”
The state’s online complaint database for care facilities shows multiple complaints about Hacienda de Los Angeles going back to 2013. Most of them involve fire drill and evacuation preparation or health care eligibility.
But one complaint from December 2013 outlines an allegation that a staff member made inappropriate sexual comments about four patients two months earlier. Nobody relayed the incidents to an administrator. That employee was later fired.
In a statement, board member Gary Orman said the facility “will accept nothing less than a full accounting of this absolutely horrifying situation”.
“We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety of every single one of our patients and our employees,” Mr Orman said.
The Hacienda facility serves infants, children and young adults who are “medically fragile” or have developmental disabilities, according to the website. In the wake of the reports, the Arizona Department of Health Services said new safety measures have been implemented. They include increased staff presence during any patient interaction, more monitoring of patient care areas and additional security measures involving visitors.