A Message from our CEO
When 2020 began, very few individuals could have foreseen the unprecedented impact that the novel coronavirus would have on daily American life. It has impacted everything, including our work at NHC. Through this letter, I want to update each group of our key stakeholders about how we are addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patients, Residents, and their Families
The care, protection, and safety of each patient in our skilled nursing facilities and homecare operations, as well as each resident in our assisted living communities is always the top priority at NHC. From the earliest stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, NHC immediately implemented all guidance from CMS, the CDC, and state and local health departments to prevent the spread of the disease to our centers. Thankfully, those actions have proven to be successful, with the vast majority of our skilled nursing centers and assisted living communities have remained free of any confirmed COVID-19 cases.
However, the highly contagious nature of this virus made total containment a virtual impossibility. When a patient or partner at an NHC facility exhibits symptoms or is tested positive for COVID-19, we have, again, followed all guidance from CMS, the CDC, and state and local health departments. Patients exhibiting symptoms or tested positive are treated in isolation to prevent any further spread, and they are closely monitored for any worsening of symptoms for immediate transfer to an area hospital. In addition, if a patient, or partner, in a skilled nursing center or assisted living community tests positive for COVID-19, notification that a case of the coronavirus in the facility has been confirmed is given to partners, patients (or residents) and their families associated with that center.
One of the guidelines from CMS and the CDC has been the restriction of visitors to our centers and communities to help prevent the introduction of the virus through asymptomatic individuals. We are keenly aware that social interaction with family and friends is vital to a senior adult’s emotional and physical well-being. Consequently, our amazing NHC partners, in each operation, have worked diligently to assist with digital communication (i.e. – cell phone, Facetime, Facebook, Zoom, etc.) between our patients and residents and their families. In addition, our partners have come up with incredibly creative ways for our seniors to be engaged in a host of activities – from hallway remote control car racing, to strolling musicians outside of windows, to parking lot parades – to keep patients happy and engaged. Our partners are “going the extra mile” to make this sequester time pass as quickly and enjoyably as possible.
What makes NHC the nation’s premier senior care provider is the incredible group of partners who work on our frontlines. These partners deserve our praise in the best of times; they are absolute heroes through this pandemic!
NHC is taking every possible action to support and protect our partners. We have been exploring and utilizing every legitimate source of scarce PPE and distributing it where it’s needed most. We have supported our frontline partners with bonuses, free meals on their shifts, a one-month health insurance premium holiday, and extended sick days for partners who contract the coronavirus.
Our seasoned regional teams have provided hands-on support, and, when needed, partners have volunteered to work at other centers where help was required.
One of the clear effects of this pandemic has been the volatility in the stock market, particularly among health care stocks. NHC has not been immune from this volatility, though to date, we have fared better than most in our sector.
In the skilled nursing arena, the coronavirus certainly has added expense to operations. Increased costs for screening, Personal Protective Equipment, nursing, dietary, and house cleaning are just a few of the factors driving escalated expenses. The virus has also decreased revenue, as hospitals and surgery centers have restricted all elective surgeries, which are a primary source of post-acute admissions.
Much needed financial assistance has begun to arrive from federal stimulus funds, and more funding is anticipated. Whenever the pandemic wanes, projections are that a pent-up demand for postponed surgeries will cause skilled nursing occupancies to rebound. In the meantime, NHC’s strong balance sheet – with low debt and reasonable lease obligations -should help our company withstand the financial challenges associated with the virus.
While we’ve never encountered something as widespread and threatening as the coronavirus, NHC has successfully weathered many storms in the past. As the nation’s longest tenured senior care company – with a track record of almost half a century – we are confident that we will successfully weather this storm as well.
CEO, National HealthCare Corporation