Arizona governor urges new leaders at facility after rape

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PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona is looking into whether it can remove the board of directors of a long-term care facility where a nurse is accused of raping an incapacitated woman who later gave birth, the governor said Friday.

In a flurry of tweets, Gov. Doug Ducey called for Hacienda HealthCare’s board to be fired.

“My confidence level in that institution and its leadership is zero, and our job now is to ensure that the individuals in their facilities are safe,” Ducey wrote on Twitter.

His tweets came a day after The Arizona Republic reported that Hacienda’s former CEO had a history of facing sexual misconduct allegations from employees. They accused CEO Bill Timmons of sexually explicit comments, groping and poor treatment of several female staffers.

None of the complaints, some of which date to 2006, involved patients. However, employees said Timmons fostered a culture of abuse.

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The board said in a statement that it could not confirm the specific complaints cited by the newspaper but that board members at the time took all allegations of sexual misconduct and other mistreatment seriously and outside attorneys investigated.

Corrective action was taken in the form of reprimands, counseling and training, the board said. Timmons also had to give up bonuses and raises but kept his job. Hacienda’s tax returns from 2015, the most recent available online, show Timmons earned more than $600,000, along with a $75,000 bonus.

“This guy should have been fired years ago,” Ducey wrote in a tweet. “Instead, he was protected and allowed to continue harming others.”

Timmons resigned Jan. 7 after reports surfaced that a 29-year-old patient gave birth last month. Attempts to reach him on a cellphone that blocks incoming calls were unsuccessful.

Hacienda’s board says it shares the concern behind the governor’s comments but argued that it has aggressively revamped its system already.

The health care provider said it’s already following the state’s request for an outside team to manage patient care and operations, which will be in place next week. They also hired former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley to lead an independent review into how the rape could have happened.

“These are not cosmetic changes,” board Chairman Tom Pomeroy said in a statement. “Rather, this organization intends to do everything in our power to restore its credibility with our patients, their families, the public and Gov. Ducey.”

The Arizona State Board of Nursing on Friday formally announced that the accused nurse, Nathan Sutherland, voluntarily surrendered his license, which was set to expire in 2020.

“He will never again be able to use this noble profession as a tool to prey on the vulnerable and the defenseless,” President Randy Quinn said during a public meeting.

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That was not enough for some people like retired nurse Victoria Coursey. She attended the meeting to urge the board to look at the other nurses who were supervising or working alongside Sutherland.

“It just seems like somebody was not watching the fox around the chicken coop,” Coursey said. “There were other people in that facility that should have seen or noticed something.”

Quinn said that if the board’s investigation shows any nurses acted improperly, it would take immediate action.

Police arrested Sutherland, 36, this week after they say his DNA matched that of the newborn boy. Sutherland was booked on one count each of sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse.

Meanwhile, authorities say the baby is out of the hospital and doing well but did not release details. The woman’s family has said they would care for the boy.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

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