By Steve Moran

There is not much senior living industry news that is good, but a week or so ago I saw a LinkedIn Post about a nursing home hitting 100% occupancy and I knew it was a story I had to tell. Here we go.

This is the post that got me all fired up:

Skilled Nursing 100

Honestly, this doesn’t happen in normal times. And it is unheard of in the middle of a pandemic. But, believe it or not, this is not even the best story of all.


Shua is the CEO of Sapphire Healthcare. They have three high-performing nursing homes. One in Las Vegas and two in Tucson, and they are looking to grow.

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The Stories Worth Telling

The nursing home he posted about is not only at 100% occupancy but they have a waiting list. He told me that if they had another 30 beds he could fill those too. When they took over the building it was 4- or 5-years-old and one of the nicer facilities in Tucson with occupancy ranging from  20%-50%.

From Shua’s perspective, the problem the facility faced was that they did not have the right clinical capabilities, so they did two things. The first was to add to their clinical capabilities then market those capabilities like crazy. They have two hospitals that are close to the facility, and a total of 11 referral sources in the primary market area. In addition, there are another 10 referral sources within 100 miles. They marketed to every single one of them. They also made sure they had contracts with every managed care organization, no matter how small.

The final thing they did/do is to have a goal of keeping their referral sources, their residents, and the medical community happy. This means having the capability to do a few hundred admissions a month, but more importantly, provide great outcomes. The team at the facility is very strong.

A COVID Disaster Success Story

This story is actually cooler but honestly filled with much pain. Their other Tucson building has 240 beds. When they took possession of the building they had about 150 residents, and over time that grew to more than 200, before COVID hit.

When COVID hit in April and no one really knew quite what we were dealing with, they got hit and hit hard. By the time they discovered they had COVID in the building, it was everywhere. They lost a bunch of lives and, of course, could not take any new admissions. They had more than 100 team members get sick. And over the course of two and a half months, went from 207 to 106 residents.

It was one of the hardest leadership times that Shua ever faced. As would be expected, it was front-page news, with calls for the facility to be closed. It was so hard, staff members were getting sick, and crying because of the loss of residents’ lives.  

And yet . . .

Ninety percent of the staff stayed with the community. The only ones who didn’t stay were those who were part-time or had severe personal risk factors. And today, they are back up to around 190 residents. Shua and his leadership treated it as a kind of medical war where they did what they had to do. This included hazard pay and renting an entire hotel so that staff would not have to expose their families to risk. The hospital next door worked hand in hand with telemed. It was a tough time, but one the community faced together with the neighboring hospital.

He closed the story with a story: As a child he met an elderly gentleman who said, “If you do what is right, you will never be disappointed.” This was his driving hope.