Sen. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, issued the following statement regarding her remarks on the Senate floor April 16 during debate on House Bill 1155:
“I want to offer my heartfelt apologies to those I offended with my comments on the Senate floor last Tuesday. 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.
“I was trying to drive home a point about House Bill 1155, the bill we were debating at the time. It will impose inflexible staffing requirements on hospitals that will dramatically increase their costs. I am worried that 61 of our critical access hospitals, those small-town hospitals with 25 beds or fewer, are already operating in the red. This will make them redder, and I am worried this added cost will force some of them to close. It isn’t proper for the Legislature to micromanage the way hospitals manage their staffing.
“I really don’t believe nurses at our critical access hospitals spend their days playing cards, but I did say it, and I wish I could reel it back. Again, I was simply trying to differentiate between the staffing needs of the small rural critical access hospitals with a handful of patients, versus the large urban hospitals with hundreds and hundreds of patients. I also offered an amendment limiting nurses to eight-hour shifts, to show there is more than one way to address labor’s argument that nurses are fatigued after working longer shifts. The thousands of nurses who have contacted my office have told me loud and clear that there are many who prefer to work 12-hour shifts so they can spend more time with their families. In recognition of that, I support the removal of the amendment and am confident it will be stripped off.
“All my career, I have worked for the people of the 16th District, and I have argued for their interests with great passion. But when we debate matters on the Senate floor, we need to remember that behind every argument there are people involved. I have the greatest respect for nurses, for their hard work, tremendous compassion, and the excellent care they gave me when I ended up in the hospital last year. My mother was an RN, and I know from personal experience the long hours she worked sacrificing to provide for her family.
“I understand from news accounts that a petition is being circulated urging me to spend a day shadowing a nurse at a local hospital for 12 hours, and walk a mile in her shoes. I look forward to receiving it and am happy to accept.”