The unnamed nurse screamed into the phone at the 911 dispatcher: “The baby’s turning blue! Baby’s turning blue!” She urged the paramedics to come faster: “We’re not prepared for this.”
In most cases, a patient going into labor at a health-care facility in a room full of nurses would be a stressful but manageable situation.
But the 29-year-old new mother at the center of the crisis unfolding at Hacienda HealthCare a few days after Christmas was a special — and especially dangerous — case: She had been in a persistent vegetative state since 1992.
“One of the patients just had a baby, and we had no idea she was pregnant,” the nurse said.
The 911 call, released by Phoenix police and obtained by ABC affiliate KNXV, provides a window into the birth that has rocked the city and the nonprofit health-care organization that has taken care of the medically fragile for five decades.
The infant, who was delivered by a Hacienda HealthCare nurse, was successfully resuscitated and was being cared for at a hospital with his mother, who also remains in good health. The baby will be taken in by family, the news station reported.
Police and the facility are trying to identify the baby’s father — the person responsible for the sexual assault on a vulnerable adult.
On Sunday, the Hacienda HealthCare board of directors announced it was hiring former Maricopa County prosecutor Rick Romley to spearhead an “exhaustive” internal review into the “deeply disturbing” case.
“Mr. Romley will have unfettered access to every facet of Hacienda’s business — including all the records related to this matter and all the operational procedures related to the [facility],” the board said in a statement. “We will do everything we can to aid this review and, once it is complete, to make sure this unprecedented situation never, ever happens again.”
Romley, who served four terms as the Maricopa County attorney between 1989 and 2004, told the Arizona Republic that he’s hired an independent health-care expert to assist with his investigation.
The review will involve an examination of policies, procedures, medical standards and staff interactions with patients at Hacienda, he said.
“I will be looking at all facets that are tied around how a situation as horrendous as this can come about,” Romley told the Republic.
Hacienda said it will work with investigators “will accept nothing less than a full accounting of this absolutely horrifying situation, an unprecedented case that has devastated everyone involved, from the victim and her family to Hacienda staff at every level of our organization,” Gary Orman, a member of Hacienda’s board of directors, said in an earlier statement.
That “full accounting” is ongoing. Hacienda’s chief executive, Bill Timmons, resigned. And police have obtained warrants to compel Hacienda’s male staff members to provide DNA samples.
Police have not named a suspect or announced an arrest.
The news has put the facility — started in the 1960s as Hacienda de los Angeles, or “the dwelling of the angels” — under a harsh spotlight.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s office released a statement saying the reports are “deeply troubling.” In addition to working with police, state officials are “reevaluating 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,” Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for Ducey (R), said in a statement.
The state’s Department of Economic Security dispatched a team to conduct health and safety checks at the facility, and the Department of Health Services has beefed up safety measures: more staff, increased monitoring and stronger security.
That is not enough for some families.
Karina Cesena, the mother of another Hacienda patient, told Phoenix independent news station KTVK that she is sleeping in her 22-year-old daughter’s room until the assailant is found.
Cesena’s daughter has a traumatic brain injury that causes hundreds of seizures a day.
“I do not [know if my daughter was victimized], but I do ask her, and she can answer yes or no,” Cesena told the news station. “She is not able to walk or talk yet, but she does understand.”
About Hacienda HealthCare, Cesena said: “Trust has been broken. Trust has definitely been broken.”
The woman who gave birth had come to Hacienda when she was 2, after nearly drowning. Crucial questions about her care remain unanswered.
Chief among them: How could nurses providing round-the-clock medical care not notice that one of their patients' was pregnant?
The surprise of the facility’s employees was evident in the 911 call.
Near the end, another employee walked up to the nurse on the phone with 911 dispatchers and inquired about the crisis.
“Who had a baby?” the woman asked the now-calmer nurse on the phone.
“Look,” was the reply. “There’s a baby right there!”