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Questioned in Parliament by Labour health spokesman David Clark yesterday, Dr Coleman said: ''That's how matters have been described to me.''
Orthopaedic surgeons Simon McMahon and David Gwynne-Jones have publicly taken Dr Coleman to task for describing the department as toxic.
In a letter to Dr Coleman, the Dunedin surgeons demanded an apology and said the urologists were overworked and lacked resources.
Dr Coleman was asked if he had seen the draft report on the southern urology service, and said no.
In a statement, Dr Clark said Dr Coleman was ''out of touch'' and appeared unfamiliar with the issues.
''The minister's disregard for the health sector is infamous, and today's admission that he has not seen even a draft of an anticipated report on Southern's urology services, which was circulated, reinforces his disinterest in the midst of a crisis ...''
Dr Coleman has declined to respond publicly to the letter from the two Dunedin surgeons, saying he will do so directly.