Care Facility Forced to Answer Stunning Allegations

care facility

When you operate a nursing or long term care facility your primary stock-in-trade is trust. People trust you to properly care for and protect their loved ones. To keep them healthy, clean, entertained and, essentially, happy. It is against that backdrop that one Arizona private nursing facility found itself in one of the worst possible spotlights.

According to a flurry of print and TV news reports, a woman at the facility recently gave birth to a child. That, in itself might be considered unusual to the average news consumer. It was the fact that came next which spun the narrative out of control. The woman who gave birth is in a “vegetative state,” entirely unwilling and unable to consent to any form of sexual activity… and she has been since long before the apparent pregnancy.

Almost immediately, local officials ordered DNA tests of all male employees of Hacienda Healthcare, in an obvious effort to narrow down who the suspect(s) in the case should be. Speaking to reporters, Phoenix Police Sergeant Tommy Thompson said: “Right now we are investigating a sexual assault… Wherever this investigation takes us, we are prepared to go forward with it.”

On most media channels, these interviews were interspersed with comments from family members related to other patients at the care facility. These people offered extremely poignant and emotional quotes, talking about how they feared for their loved ones. One mother said she had come to watch over her comatose daughter and refused to go home.

Meanwhile, Hacienda Healthcare is facing massive scrutiny and, potentially, a customer revolt, due to the actions of one or a few of its workers. What the company says during this difficult time is crucial to its options once the coverage lessens.

So far, the company says they plan to cooperate fully with the law enforcement investigation: “Hacienda stands committed to doing everything in our power to bring this police investigation to a quick conclusion… We will continue to cooperate with Phoenix Police and all other investigative agencies to uncover the facts in this deeply disturbing situation…”

That’s a good start, though they may have backed off a bit on the “quick conclusion” part of those comments. While a fast resolution in this case is certainly positive, a more empathetic comment might have been to say “we hope the perpetrator is identified quickly and that the right person is brought to justice.”

That said, it’s a difficult tightrope to walk in this case. On one level, using specific terms like “perpetrator” and “justice” could be seen as tacitly implying culpability. It’s a tenuous thread, but a thread nonetheless. On the other hand, a strong statement letting the community – especially other guests and their loved ones – know just how horrified company leadership is, would help to distance the company from guilt in the eyes of the consumers. There is no doubt that someone will pay a penalty for this horrific situation, so standing with the aggrieved and afraid in your messaging could go a long way.


Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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