Washington state senator receives 1,700 decks of cards after claiming nurses spend most of their day playing cards

A Washington state senator who angered nurses last Tuesday by suggesting that they "probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day" has gotten a taste of her own medicine. 

Republican state Sen. Maureen Walsh announced on Wednesday that approximately 1,700 decks of cards have been delivered to her office. 

"I like poker as much as anyone, but I think I'm pretty well stocked up right now," Walsh said. "One thing's for sure. It's a good time to be in the playing-card business." 

Walsh drew backlash last week after she made what was perceived as an insensitive comment during a debate over a state bill that would give nurses uninterrupted meal and rest breaks. The state senator argued in favor of an amendment that would exempt critical access hospitals, in rural areas, and hospitals with fewer than 25 beds from the bill, according to CNN

"By putting these types of mandates on a critical access hospital that literally serves a handful of individuals, I would submit to you those nurses probably do get breaks," Walsh said before making the controversial remark.

Though the Republican voted against the bill, it ultimately passed the Democratic-controlled Senate. In the process, critics chastised Walsh for comments they felt were "demeaning." 

"No, Senator, nurses are not sitting around playing cards," Matthew Keller, the director of nursing practice and health policy at the Washington State Nurses Association, said in a post on the union's website. "They are taking care of your neighbors, your family, your community."

On Monday, the state senator apologized in a lengthy statement, claiming she had been "tired" and found herself "in the heat of the argument on the Senate floor."

"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," Walsh said, explaining that she had meant to highlight her concern that uninterrupted meal and rest breaks could negatively impact certain hospitals that are already underserved.

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An online petition by Juliana Bindas, which has already received more than 750,000 signatures, has challenged Walsh to shadow a nurse for a 12-hour shift. The Republican said in her apology she would be "happy to accept" it.

As for the cards, Walsh said she would donate them to nursing homes and veterans' and senior centers. 

"I wish I could take my words back, but the issue remains important," Walsh said in a statement. "Our critical access hospitals serve an important role in smaller communities across the state. Many already are operating in the red, and this [bill] could put them under." 

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