The 29-year-old woman – who is not being named because she is a victim of sexual assault – gave birth to a healthy baby boy on 29th December. Staff allegedly did not know she was pregnant until she went into labour.
She's been identified as a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe whose reservation is located near the Hacienda HealthCare facility in Phoenix where the woman had been in residence for at least 10 years following a near-drowning incident.
“On behalf of the tribe, I am deeply shocked and horrified at the treatment of one of our members,” tribal chairman Terry Rambler said. “When you have a loved one committed to palliative care, when they are most vulnerable and dependent upon others, you trust their caretakers. Sadly, one of her caretakers was not to be trusted and took advantage of her. It is my hope that justice will be served.”
Hacienda CEO Bill Timmons stepped down on Monday and staff confirmed that on Tuesday, investigators served a search warrant to obtain DNA samples from male members of staff staff. Phoenix police have not yet commented but confirmed there is an ongoing investigation.
Board member Gary Roman said the facility “will accept nothing less than a full accounting of this absolutely horrifying situation.”
An attorney for the woman's family said in a statement that they were "outraged" and also wished to convey that "the baby boy has been born into a loving family and will be well cared for."
The incident shines a light on the vulnerability of severely disabled and incapacitated patients in long term care. The Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council recently formed a task force to look at ways to improve training for health care workers and encourage them to identify and report sexual abuse.
“We don’t have a systematic way to train people what’s a good touch or a bad touch. We also don’t have required training for providers. We really need a lot of work in this area," said Erica McFadden, Council's executive director.
Additionally, indigenous woman already face an increased risk of sexual violence. Amnesty International reports that, "Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the USA. Some Indigenous women interviewed by Amnesty International said they didn't know anyone in their community who had not experienced sexual violence."