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

Sabra Healthcare REIT’s operators are beginning to see occupancy rebound as staff members start coming back in “droves,” after slightly declining through the end of 2021 due to the rise of the omicron variant.

“The last week of January about 41% of the staff returned to work from being out due to omicron,” Sabra’s President and CEO Rick Matros said Tuesday during a fourth-quarter earnings call. 

“We had just huge numbers of staff out that were really impacting occupancy, so, with staff coming back really in droves, it’s having a direct impact on occupancy,” he added. 

The company ended December with a 75.8% occupancy rate among its skilled nursing facilities — a drop from 76% and 76.4% reported in November and September, respectively. 

The figure over the last two weeks has improved by 46 basis points — with Sabra’s top seven SNF operators reporting an occupancy increase of 149 basis points, according to Matros.

“[That] is as big a jump in that timeframe as we’ve seen since the pandemic started,” he said. 

Matros later added that he believes Sabra is about a year away from skilled nursing occupancy hitting pre-COVID levels.

“I don’t want to make too much of the fact that we just had a huge increase in skilled occupancy over the last two weeks because of the just pent-up demand,” Matros said. “But if we could get back to the rate of recovery that we saw from January of 2021 through the fall before Delta hit, which was 50% [basis points] a month, I think we’d be really happy with that.”