Alaska Commons contributor Julia Taylor, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks journalism program, had a layover in Deadhorse on her way to Barrow, Alaska. She shared pictures from her May 2016 trip to the top of the state, where she poked around the businesses close enough to the airport for her to visit during her layover.
Deadhorse, Alaska has very few permanent residents, 25-50 at most. The majority of the people who are in Deadhorse on any given day work for an oil company, supporting the oil industry in the Prudhoe Bay oil fields, or service the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. There can be up to 3,000 temporary residents in the Prudhoe Bay area at any given time, according to the employees of the Prudhoe Bay Hotel. Deadhorse is an unincorporated community in the North Slope Borough, near the Arctic Ocean.
The Deadhorse Airport has regular flights from Anchorage and Fairbanks, from Alaska Airlines and Ravn Alaska, as well as some independent aircraft and those owned by oil companies, that fly in an out of the airports two terminals. The Alaska Airlines terminal has TSA inspections of luggage, while the terminal that Ravn uses does not. Alcohol sales are legal in Deadhorse, and flights to and from Deadhorse from Fairbanks or Anchorage offer alcohol. Flights between Deadhorse and Barrow do not, because Barrow has laws that control the importing of alcohol.
Sharing the same building as the Ravn Terminal is Fairweather Medical Services, featuring physician assistants (PAs) and Emergency Medical Responders (EMRs) to treat and stabilize patients in Deadhorse. Brent Meredith, PA-C is one of the providers at Fairweather. He said that occasionally there will be a tourist or someone from a North Slope Borough community, but “99 percent of the people we serve, work in Deadhorse.”
As the only medical providers in town, they see a variety of health problems, but most are fairly routine, according to Meredith. They provide drug testing, eye exams, and general medicine services, treating things like the flu and ear infections fairly regularly. While they do occupational medicine, Meredith says that the oil industry does a good job with workplace safety, so they see very few injuries or instances of frostbite.
The main purpose of Fairweather operation is to provide services when there is an emergency, although Meredith says that they are set up to provide any medical service, including primary care. Meredith said that while they don’t see pregnant women or children coming through Deadhorse, the clinic is equipped to handle them. “I’m not afraid of babies. I’ve delivered several of them, but pregnant women just don’t come to Deadhorse,” Meredith said.
Meredith said that fighting boredom is often the hardest part of the job. The Fairweather clinic sees about five patients a day, although like pretty much everything is Deadhorse, Meredith says that it “is seasonal.” The colder it gets, the more patients the clinic sees. Some weeks they may have only twenty patient visits, while other weeks, they might have over sixty. While they have more visits when it gets colder, Meredith said that the visits are not necessarily from injuries brought on by the cold weather.
Have pictures from a trip to an out of the way part of Alaska that you would like to share? Send them our way. We’d love to hear about it!