Mariposa & Yosemite

Mariposa hospital wants state help with debt

SACRAMENTO -- Mariposa's only hospital is seeking help from the state to climb out of a financial hole.

The John C. Fremont Health Care District wants lending laws loosened so it can take out a loan to pay back physicians and other vendors who are owed about $2 million.

"We are not going to close if it doesn't happen," said Charles Bill, the district's new chief executive. "But it will make a significant difference in our cash flow on a day-to-day basis." The district's hospital and clinics provide emergency and long-term care for residents of the small mountain town. But the service area is not big enough to justify more profitable services, such as gall bladder surgeries. In fact, the district does not even have a surgeon on staff.

As a result, the district has lost money in recent years, Bill said.

To ease its cash-flow troubles, the district wants to pay off old debts by combining them in a long-term consolidation loan. But under state law, health care districts can only take out lines of credit for five-year periods or less -- shorter than what the district wants.

So officials are working with Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, on legislation that would exempt the district from the five-year limit.

The loan would improve the district's cash flow by up to $300,000 a year, freeing cash for much-needed purchases, such as replacing the hospital's aging CT scan machine, Bill said.

"This legislation will allow (the district) to serve Mariposa and its rural communities now and into the future," Cogdill said in a statement.