District history

First published in the Mariposa Gazette, May 7, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

By Candy O’Donel-Browne

On Dec. 7, 1941, our entire nation was taken by surprise. I was born a month later, into the tumultuous culture of World War II.

My parents and all their friends and relatives were forced to adapt to unwelcome change. Every neighborhood lost several neighbors in the war; those who stayed behind lived on rationed food and household goods. The cause of all this disruption was different from the horror we are facing now, nevertheless, we are reliving the shock of suddenly finding ourselves in a world that is beyond our control.

Three years later, in 1945, the wounded warriors of World War II returned to find a shortage of hospital beds. After all they gave to their country, they had to recover without adequate medical facilities. The hospitals in large American cities couldn’t accommodate all the soldiers, and almost no medical services were available in the countryside.

The injustice of this situation prodded California state legislators to take action. In 1945, they established the Local Hospital District Law, which allowed local community leaders to create government entities to provide health care in their own communities. The intent was to provide a source of tax dollars to construct and operate hospitals in medically underserved areas such as ours.

In 1947, the citizens of Mariposa voted overwhelmingly to build a new hospital. To make this possible, they established a Hospital District. The new hospital opened in 1951, and has provided critical emergency and medical care to Mariposa county residents ever since.

Today, we know this life saving-organization as the John C. Fremont Healthcare District, governed by publicly elected Board members. They include:

  • Dr. Joe Rogers, M.D., established a physician group which staffed the emergency room at John C. Fremont Hospital for years. Now he’s a member of the faculty at California Northstate University College of Medicine, but he still cares for patients in our Ewing Wing, the nursing home that is attached to our hospital.
  • Dr. Brenda Forrest, M.D., the newest board member in the District, retired after practicing at Sonora Regional Medical Center, where she served in various leadership positions. Dr. Forrest and her husband are firefighters with Mariposa County Fire Department, where they were awarded “Firefighters of the Year” for 2018.
  • Dr. Phil DeBry, DDS, has been a dentist in Mariposa for 22 years. Before he established his practice here, he served in the United States Navy, where he headed a large dental department. He is a past president of Mariposa Rotary.
  • Linda Pribyl, RN, MSN, Secretary Treasurer of the District, is a registered nurse with a Masters in Business Administration. She served as the director of the Home Health and Hospice and Private Duty departments for this district before joining the board.
  • My family moved to Mariposa in 1989 to buy a local business, which we operated for a decade. My husband, Neal Browne, joined the district board in 1992. He died in 1999, and I joined the board four years later. I play an active role in several local organizations.

The mission of this board is to assure you that quality community medical services will remain available to you and your family members. We are determined to provide care for your medical emergencies, office visits, imagery, lab tests, minor procedures and hospital stays close to home, and if it becomes necessary, we’ll refer you to our colleagues in carefully chosen institutions of the highest quality.

Our district has expanded our capacity to serve you in this time of uncertainty.