A Capital City Fire/Rescue ambulance splashes through a flooding area of Riverside Drive on their way to a call in this January 2015 photo. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

A Capital City Fire/Rescue ambulance splashes through a flooding area of Riverside Drive on their way to a call in this January 2015 photo. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Without a million tourists, emergency services still staying busy

The need for medical services has shifted, but it’s still there

Even without Juneau’s tens of thousands of daily visitors from the cruise ships, the hospital and emergency services are still staying busy.

“We’ve seen a drop in tourist-related calls. Normally, the ambulance is brought on, the (basic life support) ambulance, handles to increase in call volume,” said Capital City Fire/Rescue Assistant Chief Travis Mead in a phone interview. “Even though we brought them on, they’re not being used in that capacity this year. They’re handling the COVID challenge.”

Bartlett Regional Hospital is still dealing with emergency room traffic at normal amounts, though not necessarily in the same places, said Chief Nursing Officer Rose Lawhorne.

“Well, it has affected our volumes for sure. With that said, particularly in the emergency department, patient census has actually been high,” Lawhorne said in a phone interview. “It’s not enough to change the staffing matrixes.”

There’s been a mild decrease in usage for things like the radiology department and the labs, Lawhorne said, which would deal with the sort of trips to the hospital the cruise ships usually generate.

State reports 55 cases, 1 in Juneau

While the Juneau Police Department is also an emergency responder agency, it hasn’t been affected as deeply by the cessation of ship traffic, said JPD Lt. Krag Campbell.

“You know, as far as the police, the people on the cruise ships don’t cause crime,” Campbell said in a phone interview. “Typically we have two downtown officers that are on foot downtown. That hasn’t changed at all. Even though there’s not that influx of people there’s still crime and other problems we deal with.”

Federal COVID-19 relief funding, Mead said, has helped offset revenue lost to an essentially canceled tourism season.

“I’m asking travelers to have patience and be nice to their greeters and screeners,” Mead said. “They’re there to protect the community from illness.”

Despite reprioritizing to deal with the new COVID-19 threat, including decentralizing operations and rethinking protocols for dealing with casualties, CCFR is still here for the residents of Juneau, Mead said.

“The city manager said this is a marathon, not a sprint, and I can’t tell you how true that is,” Mead said. “I think the call volume has dropped a little. But EMS is still happening in town. Fire emergencies are still happening in town. Trail rescues are still happening.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or lockett@juneauempire.com.

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