Empty nursing home bed and wheelchair
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Full occupancy recovery for skilled nursing facilities is feasible over time but the omicron variant has slowed recent gains operators were seeing, according to Omega Healthcare executives. 

“The omicron COVID variant has paused the skilled nursing facility occupancy recovery and created further labor force stress,” Omega CEO C. Taylor Pickett said during a fourth quarter earnings call Thursday morning. “Omega SNF occupancy has been virtually flat for the three months ended Dec. 31, and the preliminary January occupancy is slightly down.”

Occupancy for the Maryland-based company’s operators has been 74.2% over the last two quarters. It was 78.1% at the end of December 2020, Omega reported. 

Pickett also noted that in December 2021, 21% of its facilities were at or above pre-COVID occupancy levels, “which may indicate that full occupancy recovery is achievable over time.” 

“Unfortunately, the already-difficult labor shortage grew increasingly worse as staff became infected and were forced to quarantine,” Pickett said. “These staffing shortages have limited many facilities’ ability to admit new residents, which has had the knock-on effect of backing patients up in the hospital systems.” 

He added that, although the impact of omicron appears to be rapid and transitory, it is “impossible” to predict how quickly industry-wide occupancy will regain traction or how rapidly the current labor force pressures will subside.