MEDIC Calls Growing Faster Than Population, Chief Says

May 18, 2016

MEDIC executive director Joe Penner addresses the county commission.

Emergency calls to Mecklenburg County's ambulance service have grown about twice as fast as the population since 2010. MEDIC Director Joe Penner told county commissioners Tuesday that most of the growth has come in non-emergency calls - people who call because of a breakdown in their social support systems.

"Maybe they don't have housing. Maybe they don't have some services that would be very effective in keeping them from needing to access health care. But they dial 911 for help because that's how they get help," Penner said. 

The agency expects to handle about 138,000 calls this year, up nearly 40 percent from about 99,000 in 20-10.  That growth, and changes in health care and insurance, are the biggest challenges facing the agency, Penner said.

Penner said response times have improved in recent years, and so have survival rates for cardiac arrests. MEDIC tracks call data and positions units where the most calls are expected.

Meanwhile, as calls have increased, the average cost per call has gone down, from $429 a few years ago to $115 per call now. That's in part because the cost of providing personnel and equipment remains steady, as each crew handles more calls. 

See Penner's presentations on the county commission website.