Caregiver in kitchen with patient

The home health and hospice industry is returning to “normal” following nearly three years of turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pennant Group executives made that assessment Thursday at the Stephens Annual Investment Conference in Nashville.

Although home health and hospice admissions increased 10.1% and 7.8% respectively in the third quarter for the Eagle, ID-based firm, hospice daily census has declined year-over-year in the past two quarters. But despite that, Pennant President and Chief Operating Officer John Gochnour told the conference audience both home health and hospice are on a definite upward trajectory.

“We had several markets within our portfolio that were tremendously hard hit by the pandemic and seeing them start to return to form and perform better, sort of illustrates the fact that things are normalizing,” Gochnour said. 

Pennant Group operates 94 home health and hospice agencies, along with 49 senior living facilities in 14 states. The executives made clear Thursday that home health and hospice are where they see the biggest opportunities for growth going forward. The company made three acquisitions in the space this year and are poised to complete more deals in 2023. 

The desire to expand is the reason behind the company’s announcement Wednesday to reorganize its leadership team, according to Pennant Group CEO Brent Guerisoli. The company is seeking a new chief financial officer, as well as a chief investment officer. Guerisoli said during the conference the company needs top executives with the skills to groom leaders at the local level to complete deals.

“What we are trying to build is local teams — local clusters and markets — that are excited about this growth opportunity and they are the ones that are deploying the capital,” Guerisoli explained. “If you have three or four or five or six markets that are simultaneously going out and looking for deals that is how we are going to see that progressive growth.” 

Guerisoli said Pennant Group is aggressively searching for small to mid-sized home health and hospice agencies. However, he said the company will exercise prudence in the amount of money it spends on deals.