TOPEKA (KSNT) – A shortage of workers is affecting a local hospital’s ability to care for sick people.

Stormont Vail officials say they’re facing critical staffing issues as COVID cases continue to place stress on the hospital system. To help accept more patients, they’re opening a new area in the hospital.

The new space will be a transition unit with 16 beds in the hospital. The area will be used to temporarily manage patients waiting to be discharged for continued therapy. Hospital staff were unable to take 18 of 37 patient transfer requests on Tuesday this week.

Clinical Nurse Leader and Senior Project Manager Brooke Oxandale said the transition unit will help free up beds and allow the hospital to accept other patients in need of a higher level of care.

“This allows us to accept more patients from other facilities that are trying to transfer in, and then also allows us to have more staff in those acute areas to care for those patients,” Oxandale said.

The move essentially opens up 16 more hospital beds to care for more urgent long-term patients. Work is underway to have the temporary transition unit open as early as next week.