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Timothy Hill pens letter to Washington state senator in response to controversial nurse comment

Zach Vance • Apr 24, 2019 at 10:58 PM

Despite serving in a state legislature on opposite sides of the country, State Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, felt the need Tuesday to pen a letter to a Washington state lawmaker, who made a controversial comment about nurses in smaller hospitals.

According to media reports, Washington state Sen. Maureen Walsh, a Republican, suggested that nurses in smaller hospitals “probably play cards for a considerable amount of the day.” Walsh made the comments during discussion of a bill being considered by the Washington state Senate that would provide nurses with uninterrupted meal and rest periods.

“I’m appalled that a member of a state legislature would disregard nurses who work hard each day to ensure their patients receive the best quality of care possible,” Hill said in a press release from his office.

“In Tennessee, we love and support our nurses, and we are thankful for their sacrifices, and the many tireless hours they give, often without thanks, to try and heal the sick, and care for our communities. My colleagues and I are proud to stand with our 147,000 nurses across Tennessee.”

The letter written by Hill was also signed by approximately 47 Tennessee lawmakers.

In a Facebook post about the letter, Hill said, “I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a nurse who just sits around playing cards all day. On the other hand, I know there are plenty of do-nothing politicians like Senator Walsh, who could probably use a new deck of cards due to theirs (sic) being worn out from overuse.”

The photo accompanying the Facebook post showed a new deck of cards, which Hill plans to send along with the letter.

Walsh, who represents Washington’s 16th Senate District, issued an apology Monday for the comments, claiming she was “tired.”

“In the heat of argument on the Senate floor, I said some things about nurses that were taken out of context — but they still crossed the line,” Walsh’s statement said.

Walsh said he was trying to drive home a point that the bill would impose inflexible staffing requirements on hospitals that will dramatically increase their costs.

“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,” the statement continued. “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.”

A petition also began circulating that called for the Washington state lawmaker to spend a day shadowing a nurse at a local hospital for 12 hours. Walsh said she “looks forward to receiving (the petition) and am happy to accept.”

The following is what Hill’s letter states:

“Dear Senator Walsh,

“On behalf of many Tennesseans and the Republican House members signed below, we wanted to express our disapproval and outrage over your misguided comments regarding nurses.

“In Tennessee, we have roughly 147,000 nurses. They work tirelessly to take care of their families, friends, and patients. Many of them don’t get breaks, and when they do, the time is often rushed, as the call of duty does not wait for rest.

“These beloved women and men are well-known to us. They may be our neighbors, or our sisters, or friends from school, or the tireless servant tending to a loved one on an overcrowded ward.

“In Tennessee, we love and support our nurses, and we are thankful for their sacrifices, and the many tireless hours they give, often without thanks, to try and heal the sick, and care for our communities.

“Please find enclosed a deck of playing cards. While you are on break or relaxing using this gift, please think of the many Tennessee nurses who don’t have the time to play because they are working extra hours to care for our people.”

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