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Lawmaker's Comment About Nurses Sparks Outrage

Some want Wash. state Sen. Maureen Walsh to resign
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2019 8:01 AM CDT
In this Jan. 9, 2017, file photo, Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, right, takes the oath of office on the opening day of the 2017 legislative session in Olympia, Wash.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

(Newser) – One Washington state legislator is now facing calls for her resignation over what she says was a fatigue-driven remark. GOP state Sen. Maureen Walsh drew heat after she spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday on a bill pushing for uninterrupted meal and rest breaks for nurses, as well as other protections tied to mandatory overtime. The controversy arose when the Walla Walla County lawmaker explained why she wants an amendment to HB 1155 that would exempt nurses from such breaks if they worked for smaller, rural hospitals. "I would submit to you those nurses probably do get breaks," Walsh said, per USA Today. "They probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day." Walsh also proposed her own amendment that would keep nurses from working more than eight hours in one shift, CNN reports.

"I know they want [12-hour shifts], but then they ... start talking out of both sides of the mouth and telling us how tired they are," she said Tuesday. In a blog post, the Washington State Nurses Association called Walsh's comments "incredibly disrespectful," "patronizing," and "demeaning," noting Walsh doesn't understand how unsafe it can be to deprive nurses of breaks during long shifts. "No, Senator, nurses are not sitting around playing cards," the post reads. "They are taking care of your neighbors, your family, your community." At least two petitions are now circulating: one calling for Walsh to shadow a nurse, and another asking her to resign. Walsh, meanwhile, tells KEPR her own mom was a registered nurse and that she has the "greatest respect" for those in that role. "I was tired," she says of her comments, though she still opposes the bill, per the Olympian. "I said something I wish I hadn't." (Read more Washington state stories.)

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