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Lieutenant governor candidate tours county

August 24, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

Kristen Cox, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, took a whirlwind tour of Washington County on Wednesday, covering everything from the arts to the sciences.

"Believe it or not, even though I'm blind, I do love art," Cox said as she arrived at the refurbished Washington County Museum of Fine Arts at City Park in Hagerstown.

Cox met with the museum's board in a closed meeting to discuss a capital project.

Cox said it was great to see community support of the museum. A large gift from an anonymous donor underscored the community's interest, she said.

Joseph Ruzicka, the museum's director, gave Cox a quick tour of his facility, explaining to her the different genres of art displayed in the museum, and discussing an upcoming exhibit celebrating the museum's 75 years.

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Cox, who currently serves as secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities, then zipped over to the newly built Parkway Neuroscience & Spine Institute off of Western Maryland Parkway.

"I'm pretty impressed with your entrepreneurial effort here," Cox told John Caruso, a leading partner in the Parkway facility.

Cox met with Physicians Partnering with the Hospital, a committee focused on ensuring that health-care practitioners have input on health care-related decisions in Washington County.

Caruso and Marc Kross, chair of the committee and trauma chief at Washington County Hospital, outlined the major problems they see in local health care.

Among the issues discussed were competition, not cooperation, between the hospital and surgery centers, an adversarial relationship between the hospital's administration and its physicians, and the high cost of a new hospital.

Much of the conversation focused on medical malpractice insurance. A 2005 bill subsidized the rising malpractice insurance costs, but those subsidies are decreasing each year, and will be eliminated in 2009.

"This issue has not been put to bed," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, who also attended the meeting.

Cox said Gov. Robert Ehrlich has been pushing tort reform, and that she is with the governor 100 percent on the malpractice issue.

"It's a problem we faced a few years ago," she said. "It's going to come up again."

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