One out of every five phone calls to 911 in Memphis is a mistake. Of the 130,000 emergency calls in 2016, some 25,000 of them are really non-emergency calls, for everything from misdiagnosed stroke symptoms to simple sore throats. The city dispatches thousands of ambulances to residents who really just need to see a doctor.
This adds up: Medical bills start at $1,000 per ambulance ride, and another $1,000 for an emergency-room visit. The costs only go up from there. Plus, 911 call volume in Memphis has been growing 5 percent annually. Each ambulance the city adds to its fleet comes with a price tag of $1 million per year for personnel and equipment.