“As the market fundamentals in seniors housing and care continue to trend positively since the COVID-19 vaccine became available, and operators are shifting gears from reacting to the threat of contagion in their communities to recovering census, many are finding their organizations returning to some form of operational normalcy in the face of considerable labor challenges. Wages and benefits are typically significant operating expenses for seniors housing and care providers even in the best of times. In the Wave 30 survey, about half of respondents reported that attracting community and caregiving staff was the biggest challenge their organizations are facing 16 months into the pandemic.
Vaccination rates among skilled nursing facilities’ workers continue to lag optimistic expectations. About 56% of all healthcare personnel have been fully vaccinated for the week ending June 27 vs. 79% of residents fully vaccinated, according to the most recent CMS data compiled by NIC’s Skilled Nursing COVID-19 Tracker. The reluctance among staff to get vaccinated is worrisome as the Delta variant becomes more dominant and COVID-19 cases rise among the general population across states with low vaccination coverage.
“Recent data from NIC’s Executive Survey Insights, NIC MAP® Data, powered by NIC MAP Vision, and NIC Analytics suggest that cautious optimism may be justified as occupancy rates appear to have reached their low points around the end of March and are gradually improving for many operators of seniors housing and care properties across the nation. Between 48% and 71% of organizations reported upward changes in occupancy depending on the type of care segment. Of note, more than a third of organizations with assisted living residences and nearly one-half with nursing care beds saw occupancy increases of three percentage points or more.
The pandemic has not only affected operators and their ability to care for their residents but has also required equity and debt partners to revisit how they look at revenues, expenses and returns. In the latest NIC Leadership Huddle event, hundreds of senior housing and care leaders gathered virtually to hear from industry capital providers. The discussion focused on questions such as: Have capital providers altered their views on underwriting metrics, LTVs, recourse, and rates? Have relief funds provided through governmental programs exasperated or helped expense models? And how will COVID impact the structuring of capital on a go-forward basis?