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Board Chairman of Hacienda HealthCare, where Patient was Raped, resigns

Law & Order

Board Chairman of Hacienda HealthCare, where Patient was Raped, resigns

After the news of broke in about an incapacitated woman delivering a baby, questions were raised about the safety and security of patients in healthcare facilities. As the investigation went on, a nurse was arrested on the charge of rape, and two doctors along with the CEO of the non-profit organization resigned. Now, in a recent turn of events, the Board Chairman of the non-profit organization has resigned.

Tom Pomeroy, who served on Hacienda HealthCare’s board for 38 years, declared that he was stepping down amid “organizational changes” that could lead to more resignations and new rules for how members are selected and how long they serve.

The declaration by Tom comes less than two weeks after an investigation by a particular media house detailed the long history of self-dealing and nepotism among Hacienda board members, including Pomeroy.

It should be reported that for decades, Pomeroy brokered health insurance for roughly 800 Hacienda employees through his private company, reaping lucrative commissions on the contracts.

The investigation also reported having found board members served without limits and often rotated in and out as board chair. The board rules also did not set specific term limits and allowed members to do business with the facility so long as they declared a conflict and abstained from voting.

The investigation also added that at least two other board members did business directly with Hacienda, and some board members did business with each other, raising questions about the non-profit board’s independence and ability to police itself. 

Four children of Hacienda board members got jobs there. 

Pomeroy admitted Thursday the facility needs new leadership.

“If Hacienda is to move forward after the deeply disturbing events of the past few months, it’s clear that the organization needs new leadership,” he said in a statement.

“Gov. Ducey, for whom I have great respect, has said as much. So have some state and community leaders. I will continue to support Hacienda’s mission philanthropically, but I will have no formal role with the organization.”

It should be reported that Hacienda is in the process of establishing new rules for the board, according to a statement issued by the facility. It added board members are reconsidering their service and the appointment of new board members was “very likely to be announced soon.”

Investigation-

Since December 29 when the news of a patient with intellectual disabilities delivering a baby boy broke out, the facility has faced intense scrutiny. Staff members told police they had no idea she was pregnant until she went into labor.

The rape victim was a 29-year-old member of the San Carlos Apache tribe. She had grown up at Hacienda. As per the healthcare, she was admitted at three years old with seizure disorders, and is described in court documents as “unable to make any decisions or give consent due to her disability.” 

On January 23, Phoenix police arrested one of her caregivers, Nathan Sutherland, a 36-year-old licensed practical nurse. He was booked into a Maricopa County jail on suspicion of sexual assault and vulnerable-adult abuse. He has pleaded not guilty.

The incident set off a cascade of events, beginning with the resignation of Hacienda’s chief executive officer, Bill Timmons, after 28 years.

Recently, Governor Ducey also has asked the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to launch an investigation into patient care, financial fraud, and sexual-harassment claims at Hacienda HealthCare.

He cited a few media house investigations in his letter to the attorney general. The stories stated years of sexual harassment by Timmons and allegations of financial fraud that dogged his administration.

It should be noted that Hacienda operates two non-profit facilities for children and adults with specialized medical needs near South Mountain. Many patients are unable to breathe or eat on their own and require 24-hour care. At last count, the facility had 37 patients from ages 16 to 68, with most listed as “non-ambulatory.”

Under its non-profit arm, Hacienda’s board also runs two small children’s hospitals, several group homes and immunization clinics in the Valley. It also has two for-profit companies that sell medical equipment and provides home health care.

On February 8, the state took over management of the South Mountain facility, where the patient was raped after threatening to shut it down. The facility gets most of its revenue from Medicaid reimbursements administered by the state. 

Employee Health Care-

As per the company records, Pomeroy was the longest-serving member of the Hacienda board. As per him, he always acted in the best interests of Hacienda employees and patients.

“For nearly four decades, I have poured my heart and soul into building Hacienda HealthCare,” Pomeroy said in his statement. “From a company that started with just two beds, Hacienda has grown into an organization that has helped thousands of special needs individuals and their families.”

He also said his company, Pomeroy & Associates, negotiated superior health benefits at lower costs than employees would have gotten elsewhere. Employees experienced no premium increases on medical coverage in four of the past six years, he said.

Pomeroy also said he received “normal broker compensation,” which ranged from 4 percent to 7 percent annually.

However, he outrightly rejected taking advantage of his position, saying no board member ever raised objections to his company. Pomeroy said an IRS audit two years ago “confirmed there were no conflicts of interest.” 

As per the investigation, at least two Hacienda board members were connected to Pomeroy’s insurance company outside of Hacienda.

The other three board members whose children got jobs at Hacienda say they were not involved in hiring decisions. As per them, their children were qualified for their positions and received high marks from supervisors once they got their jobs and advanced up the personnel ladder.

As per members, they are not aware of any policies or bylaws restricting relatives from being hired, claiming they also abstained from votes that might affect their children.

But that has not stopped them from putting their children’s names and resumes in front of Timmons, who was responsible for hiring. “There has not been a waking hour in the last two months — since I learned about a baby being born in Hacienda’s Intermediate Care Facility under such awful circumstances — that I haven’t thought about and acted on ways to improve this organization,” Pomeroy said in his statement.

Pomeroy added Hacienda could not be allowed to fail, adding that no individual is more important than the organization and its mission.

“If my resignation contributes in some way to Hacienda moving forward, then I do so sadly, but without an iota of doubt,” he said. “I want Hacienda to thrive for its patients, their families, our people, and our community.”

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