Hacienda HealthCare to cease operation at South Phoenix facility

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- Officials with Hacienda HealthCare announced on Thursday that it will begin to transition clients and eventually cease operation at one of its facilities.

"After careful consideration, the Board of Directors have come to understand that it is simply not sustainable for us to continue to operate our ICF-ID (Intermediate Care Facility for the Intellectually Disabled). Thus, we will begin to transition clients and eventually cease operation," read a memo sent to staff members, which was obtained by FOX 10.

In the memo, officials say the transition will be a team effort, and may last many months. Officials also say the company will do everything in its power to help employees impacted by the change to secure employment within its other programs or within the community, and will, in the meantime, work with the state closely to ensure every patient's safety, security, and care.

In an official statement released Thursday afternoon, Hacienda HealthCare officials say the decision to shut down was made, following a Board of Directors vote on February 1.

Hacienda HealthCare been the focus of international attention, after a baby was born to an incapacitated woman at one of their facilities. A suspect, identified as 36-year-old Nathan Dorceus Sutherland, has since been arrested in connection with the incident. Sutherland was a licensed practical nurse who surrendered his license after his arrest, and he has pleaded not guilty in court.

In the memo, officials alluded to the incident involving the incapacitated woman, saying that in the aftermath of the incident, they have had to make a "complex set of changes to virtually every aspect of how Hacienda does business, following directives from multiple state agencies".

In January, state regulators ordered Hacienda HealthCare officials to find a third party-manager for its facilities, and on January 30, officials with Indiana-based Benchmark Human Services say they have been contracted by Hacienda to act as a third-party manager.

On Wednesday, however, Courtney Heiser with Benchmark released a statement to FOX 10, saying the company failed to reach an agreement with Hacienda at the end of the week last week. Benchmark's statement came just one day after Arizona state regulators say Hacienda is not in compliance with state directives by failing to appoint a third-party manager for its facilities, and orders the facility to outline, in detail, their plan to comply with all issued directives no later than the end of the week.

In addition, Gov. Doug Ducey has pressed the state's Attorney General, Mark Brnovich, to begin a criminal investigation on Hacienda HealthCare, and directed state agencies to better protect patients with disabilities.

A representative with AHCCCS called the decision to close "disturbing", and encouraged Hacienda to find a path forward, saying the closure is not in the best interest of patients.

Meanwhile, a mother who has moved her daughter away from the facility says she is happy the facility is closing.

"I'm glad they are," said Karina Cesena. "I was shocked that it took this long, but I'm very happy that they're taking steps forward to make sure their patients are safe."

Cesena moved her daughter out of Hacienda two weeks ago, after what happened to the incapacitated woman. She was concerned about safety and has found a new facility.

"It's very tiresome too, because we worried so much about how we're going to do it, where we're going to go, and I stayed with her 24/7 until we figured out where we're going to go," said Cesena.

For Cesena, the incident at Hacienda will forever be on her mind.

"They need to re-do an administration, a board," said Cesena. "They need to revamp the whole thing for people who actually know what they're doing in there."

Click here for FOX 10's complete coverage of the Hacienda HealthCare scandal