Two Assembly election candidates have clashed over hopes for an out-of-hours service in the Banbridge area.
DUP candidate Carla Lockhart has said she is “disappointed with the defeatist attitude” but will work with UUP candidate Jo-Anne Dobson if both are elected with the aim of achieving an out-of-hours service for the Banbridge area.
Responding to comments made by the UUP candidate last week, Ms Lockhart said: “I am all to aware of the pressure there is on our out-of-hours service in Craigavon.
“The capacity, staffing levels and increase in usage is causing difficulties with call backs and waiting times.
“Having spoken to so many on the doors in the Banbridge area I am all to aware of the need to press for a service specific to the Banbridge area.
“To that end I will be working with the Health Minister, be it whoever, to try and achieve this desired outcome.
“I recognise that Mrs Dobson has asked a series of questions at the Assembly but I want the new Health Minister to come to Banbridge, see and hear the need and I will, if elected, ask more than questions.
“I will be lobbying, pressing and persistently perusing this long term goal. In my work as a Councillor I recognise persistence is the key to achieving a long term outcome.
“I would call on Mrs Dobson to work together on this matter and try to achieve an outcome that is best suited to the Banbridge area. I look forward to taking this challenge on.”
Responding to the comments from the DUP candidate, Mrs Dobson said: “I have a proud track record of delivery and representation on behalf of local people when it comes to health issues. Had I adopted a defeatist attitude I would not have achieved the results!
“Actually coming from the town, I am acutely aware of the issues affecting local people, especially when it comes to the out of hours service and the failures of the DUP when it comes to our health service.
“Through her recent statements Mrs Lockhart may attempt to divorce herself from the lamentable failures of her party and three successive health ministers, but the public will not be so easily fooled.
“I make absolutely no apology for repeatedly highlighting and challenging their actions in mismanaging our health service on behalf of local people.
“As to working together in the interests of the people of Banbridge I believe that my record speaks for itself.
“If we are elected I look forward to taking up Mrs Lockhart’s pledge of working together - putting patients first and not politics, something which I have sought to do and have been continually disappointed that other parties have not shared that vision.”
Mrs Lockhart and Mrs Dobson will both be standing in next week’s Assembly election.