Published: Dec 04, 2012 5:11 PM EST
Updated: Dec 04, 2012 5:25 PM EST

CAPE CORAL, Fla.- It's not just businesses that prepare for extra visitors during season, Cape Coral Hospital is also making room for more patients.

On Monday, the hospital opened the 2-East wing, also known to some as the 'snowbird wing.'

There are 24 rooms now available for the seasonal overflow of patients, with more opening up in January.

On the first night, 18 of the 24 rooms were already full with patients.

VP of patient services Wendy Piascik says, "it's a challenge every year, the emergency room gets backed up quite a bit and we know that is the front door of the hospital, so anything we can do to decompress the volume will certainly help waiting times in the emergency department. Wait times do increase, typically out of season we see about 150-180 patients a day in the ER, but that number can grow to be close to 200 or over 200."

She says things always pick up this time of year, so they open the wing to make room for more patients. "Usually in December we feel that crunch starting to occur. This at least means a patient can lay in a bed in a room with a bathroom rather than be on a stretcher for a long period of time," she says.

More patients also means more staff. The hospital pulls from a pool of seasonal workers to staff the seasonal floor. And some of them are snowbirds too. Piascik says, "travelers who come year after year, people who live up north during the winter time like to come down and do their nursing in warmer climates so it works out better for all of us."

Sharon Rothwell is the interim director on the floor. She says they've done a lot of remodeling over the past year. She says she enjoys working in the seasonal wing. "I have seasonal nursing staff and I also have staff from other areas of the hospital because they like working this unit, it's laid out differently. We have a group of people who were here last year and came back this year because they enjoyed working here so much and they bring all their stories about nursing across the nation."

There will be a total of 36 extra beds available in January. The hospital will close the wing around the end of April as season winds down. Piascik says last season, they used an average of 26 of the additional beds on a daily basis.