A group of nursing home residents laugh and talk with each other
Credit: Chuck Savage/Getty Images Plus

While many long-term care providers are just hoping to reach pre-pandemic occupancy levels over the next few months, Ensign Group executives are predicting their operators will soon exceed the mark after another “record quarter.” 

The California-based company reported same-store occupancy improved by 2.8% — from 71.6% to 74.4% — when comparing the third quarter of 2020 to the quarter ended Sept. 30. Additionally, occupancy at its transitioning operations improved by 4.4% for the quarter — from 66% to 70.4% — between 2020 and 2021.

National occupancy among nursing homes sits around 72%, according to recent data from the American Health Care Association. 

Ensign CEO Barry Port credited his company’s census improvements to operating leaders’ “relentless focus on market-specific occupancy growth strategies along with a persistent effort around operational fundamentals.”

“With the COVID-19 delta variant hitting its peak, our local teams have again demonstrated incredible agility and responsiveness to the evolving landscape,” he said during an earnings call Thursday. 

He added that while Ensign is “excited about our accomplishments this quarter, we know we can do so much better, and we are excited about the enormous potential within our portfolios as we return to and exceed pre-COVID census levels.” 

Executives announced they expect to see some continued improvement in the fourth quarter and increased Ensign’s annual 2021 earnings guidance to between $3.60 and $3.68 per diluted share. That’s up from the previous guidance of $3.55 to $3.67 per diluted share. 

“The new midpoint of this 2021 earnings guidance represents an increase of 16.3% over our 2020 results and is 104.5% higher than our 2019 results,” Port explained in the earnings release.

“When we consider the current health of our organization, combined with our culture and proven local leadership strategy, we are confident that we are well-positioned not only to continue our positive operational momentum, but to accelerate our growth,” he added.

Ensign also announced the formation of a new captive real estate investment trust, which leaders said will provide additional acquisition opportunities and give the company more flexibility in the use of and access to capital.

See additional coverage of the earnings call from the McKnight’s Business Daily e-newsletter.