Washington state lawmaker apologizes for saying some nurses 'play cards for a considerable amount of the day'

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A Washington state lawmaker who angered nurses by saying some may spend a lot of time playing cards in rural hospitals wishes she could reel that comment back in.

State Sen. Maureen Walsh, a Republican, said Monday her comments were taken out of context and that she was concerned that rules in a proposed bill would be a hardship for small hospitals.

"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," Walsh said in a statement.

The Senate bill would require uninterrupted meal and rest breaks for nurses. Walsh wanted an amendment that would exclude hospitals with fewer than 25 beds, saying she thought those nurses "probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day."

"What would I like to say? Maybe I've said enough," Walsh later joked in an interview with KOMO. "Do I regret saying 'the cards?' You bet I do."

She told KOMO that her office has received 27,000 angry calls and emails about her April 16 remarks, and nurses have mailed her hundreds of decks of cards in protest.

Her comments also sparked a petition demanding Walsh shadow a nurse on a 12-hour shift and over 770,000 people signed on. Walsh on Monday agreed to shadow a nurse.

Though she apologized for her remarks, Walsh said she still thinks breaks should be left up to the hospitals, not the government. The bill in question, House Bill 1155, is likely to go to committee so that both chambers of the state legislature can hammer out a compromise.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.