Republican state senator Maureen Walsh is in for a wild ride. The lawmaker came under fire after saying that nurses in smaller hospitals “probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day” during a debate about legislation that would provide nurses with uninterrupted meal and rest periods.
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She opposed the legislation, saying it “does not apply” to districts like hers with many critical access hospitals, which have fewer than 25 beds.
Outraged by Walsh’s comments, nurses and everyone who sympathize with them started reacting. Chicago nurse Juliana Bindas even created an online petition Saturday that calls on Walsh to shadow a nurse for a 12-hour shift. As of this article, over 764,000 people have signed it. Many of them showed their outrage on social media as well.
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The public reaction has made Walsh reconsider her stance. “I want to offer my heartfelt apologies to those I offended with my comments on the Senate floor last Tuesday,” she said in a statement. “I was tired, and in the heat of argument on the Senate floor, I said some things about nurses that were taken out of context – but still they crossed the line.”
The lawmaker said she was trying to make the point that many small hospitals already face financial problems and that the bill would only make them worse.
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According to USA TODAY, The Washington State Nurses Association website crashed on Friday after too many people viewed a blog post describing Walsh’s comments as disrespectful and patronizing.
Also, the state nursing association said recruiting nurses to rural hospitals is already challenging. The organization believes that denying them uninterrupted breaks and imposing mandatory overtime would further complicate the hiring process.
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Walsh was arguing in support of an amendment that would exempt rural and smaller hospitals from a bill that would guarantee uninterrupted breaks for nurses. She had also introduced another amendment to the bill that would prohibit nurses from working more than 8 hours in a 24-hour period. On Tuesday, the Senate passed the bill with both amendments included. Walsh voted against the bill.
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And as for the petition, Walsh said she’d be happy to see how the job is actually done. “I love my nurses,” she told KOMO. “I’d be happy to come and work in a hospital with them for a while and shadow them and see their job.”