Headshot of Sabra's CEO Rick Matros
Sabra’s Rick Matros

While just 40% of operators running facilities in the Sabra Health Care REIT issued a self-imposed COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the company reported on Thursday that 80% of its operators’ overall workforce have been fully vaccinated against the disease.

Sabra executives were satisfied with the figure, given that it far exceeds the national average of about 71% for nursing homes nationwide, according to CEO and Chair Rick Matros. The progress by some operators, however, hasn’t stopped others’ worries about a mandate impacting ongoing labor shortages. 

“For those that haven’t mandated, there still is a fear that they’re going to lose too many employees if they mandate, but the data just really hasn’t supported that,” Matros said Thursday during a third-quarter earnings call. 

Matros added the ongoing labor issues continues to be the “primary impediment” in the pace of Sabra’s recovery. Nevertheless, he said the company understands the concerns but noted now they’re going to mandate following the federal COVID-19 vaccination requirement “whether they like it or not.”

“All of the operators that we’re aware of that have mandated simply haven’t lost that many employees, and they’ve actually been able to use that as a recruiting tool because they do have a safer environment,” Matros added. 

The California-based real estate investment trust on Thursday reported that average occupancy among its skilled nursing/transitional care portfolio has improved since hitting a low in December. 

Its top eight operators, which comprise 68% of the REIT’s skilled nursing rent, saw average occupancy rise 536 basis points from late December to mid-October. It’s skilled mix census in the portfolio has also risen 48 basis points since February 2020. 

“The portfolio continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The vaccination uptake for the workforce continues to improve, and the mandate should help that,” Matros said. “With the holiday season coming shortly, we are hopeful we will see more of the workforce returning, if not by year end, then shortly thereafter.”