New LHD EMS Director takes helm

Troy Armstrong, the new EMS director for Lake Health District, stands in front of an ambulance with new signage.

Having recently taken over the local ambulance service from the Lakeview Disaster Unit (LDU), the Lake Health District (LHD) also hired a new Emergency Medical Services director.

The new director, Troy Armstrong, moved to Lakeview from Missouri where he worked as the Johnson County Emergency manager. He had his first day of work in Lakeview Sept. 1, jumping right in with a call at 1:30 a.m. The ambulance service went on 20 calls in his first nine days, according to EMT Sam Hatfield. “He got a hard induction but he passed it with flying colors,” she said of Armstrong.

The LHD ambulance service is unique, Armstrong said, because it provides not only emergency medical services, but rescues as well, including vehicle extrication and limited rope rescue.

Armstong has been in the emergency services field since the age of 14 when he became a junior firefighter. At 17, he obtained his Emergency Medical Technician basic certification.

“My infatuation with public safety started at a young age playing with diecast cars, often times setting up fire departments out of legos and equipping them with different types of those vehicles including fire trucks and ambulances. My uncle was a volunteer firefighter within my hometown and I remember the first Labor Day parade he let me ride with him in the fire truck, I was hooked,” he shared.

The reason he got into the EMS business, Armstrong reflected, can be summed up by one of his favorite quotes from Thom Dick, a strong national advocate of EMS: “You’re going to be there when a lot of people are born, and when a lot of people die. In most every culture, such moments are regarded as sacred and private, made special by a divine presence. No one on earth would be welcomed, but you’re personally invited. What an honor that is.”

Armstrong found out about the Lake County EMS director position after being contacted by a recruiter. He then had an interview with LHD over Zoom before coming out for an on-site interview. He said he was impressed with the Lake District Hospital and with the LDU volunteers and later fell in love with Lake County’s weather and terrain.

The merger between LHD and LDU has been awesome, Armstrong said, noting that he is looking forward to working with the LDU and utilizing their volunteers. Armstrong will focus on enhancing the service the LDU has already been providing for so many years.

Having come from a county that was significantly larger in terms of population but much smaller — a tenth of Lake County — in terms of land area, Armstrong said he is adapting to rural medicine, which is a different way of doing things. In an area where things are so spread out, he said, it becomes all the more critical for EMS to have an early response. He added that the rural nature of Lake County was one of the reasons he chose to move here. While he didn’t bring any human family members along to his new home, Armstrong said he did bring his “little man” — a 15-pound Malshi named Colt that he considers family.

In the short-term, he said, his goals are maintaining a level of pre-hospital care for the community while onboarding additional personnel, developing a plan for apparatus utilization and replacement, and getting acclimated to the new EMS space. A 24/7 operation will be run out of the new EMS building, which includes lodging and sleeping quarters for the employees. The building is also equipped with lights and speakers that are activated when a call for help is received. Outside are four bays to house ambulances and a rescue truck.

As for his long terms plans, Armstrong described, “Two of the items on my radar are providing those interfacility transfers from Lake Health District to the tertiary care centers, along with seeing what a Community Paramedicine program looks like here that would focus on reaching out to the members of the community on topics such as injury prevention, medical preparedness, and other healthcare educational topics.”

Armstrong also wants to work with the area’s at risk populations to prevent readmissions to the Hospital by doing well-being checks and follow-ups after people have been discharged.

“I love the ability of being able to make a difference in our communities, how every day is different; you don’t know if one minute you’ll be washing the ambulance and the next responding to a critical incident,” he said.

For more information, call 541-947-2114.

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