Employees raise concerns over handling of COVID outbreak at youth treatment center | KOB 4

Employees raise concerns over handling of COVID outbreak at youth treatment center

Joy Wang
Created: November 24, 2020 10:34 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —The  Children, Youth, and Families Department reported an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among the residents and staff at Bernalillo Academy, a private treatment center for children with behavioral needs. 

“The situation with the COVID outbreak at Bernalillo Academy is very concerning for the students who reside there, and that's in my opinion, but I've been a nurse for 32 years and I've never seen things handled that poorly,” said Sharon Guerra, a former nurse at Bernalillo Academy. 

Guerra said she was the head nurse before being let go, and claimed it was after she tested positive for COVID-19.

“I had a fever, and it was over 101. I had severe body pain. I mean, it was the worst pain I've ever had in my life,” she said.

Guerra said she provided a doctor’s note to her employer. 

“He kept calling and demanding that I work from home at least,” she said. “It was very hard for me to do that and I think that upset them enough that I couldn't work from home and that I was so sick that he then ended up terminating me.”

At least three other employees reached out to KOB 4 anonymously and said they don’t feel safe at the facility and have considered leaving. 

"I want to be in a safe work environment, like, I don't want to have to go to work and feel like I'm going to die or I have to bring it home,” said an anonymous employee. 

Bernalillo Academy sent KOB 4 the following statement about the cases at the facility:

“At Bernalillo Academy, we have sought to mitigate the risks of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for our clients, employees and partners. The health and safety of our students and employees remain our top priorities as we work diligently to address the cases on our campus. We continue to monitor the situation closely, and students with positive test results are currently in isolation and receiving the best care possible. We are glad to report that all of our students that are currently isolating are asymptomatic and will be able to soon resume their COVID-19 modified programming and activities.

 Staff with positive test results are adhering to CDC guidance and must meet specific criteria before returning to campus. We are very appreciative of the ongoing support of our county public health officials and the many other community and health partners who are working hard to provide support and combat this virus. We are committed to taking whatever steps necessary to ensure the continued health and safety of those on our campus and to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Guerra said they’ve seen severe cases among those who tested positive. 

“We had one student that was very ill and ended up in the ICU at one of our local hospitals. He was very, very sick and it was concerning. The other part of the COVID outbreak is that we lost a dear employee,” Guerra said.

“That was the last I heard of him. Next I know he was dead,” the anonymous employee added.

Bernalillo Academy confirmed an employee tested positive and later died, but they stand by their statement. 

“I would really like to see something done, where the safety of the students at Bernalillo Academy is ensured. To me, you know I can move on. I've been a nurse for 32 years. It's my passion, but these kids I just have to make sure that they're safe,” Guerra said.

CYFD said they’re in regular contact with the academy to provide guidance and assistance, and ensure compliance. 


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