Three Irish surgeons have revealed that they are being paid a whopping $350,000 to do nothing.

The three orthopedic consultants at Letterkenny General Hospital in County Donegal have revealed that the Irish Health Service is paying them to “sit around doing nothing” while operating theaters are empty.

Senior consultant and team leader, Peter O’Rourke said he is “frustrated and depressed” about the current working climate in Letterkenny General Hospital.

The surgeon claims there is little or no work for his team in the busy hospital despite massive waiting lists for essential knee and hip surgeries known as elective surgeries.

The health service has put such surgeries on hold until next year as the “elective” budget has overrun by $3.3 million.

“I’m sitting here in my office looking out my window at a digger piling up clay on the site of the new emergency department when I should be at work in an operating theater,” said Dr O’Rourke.

And he also pointed out that the real victims are the patients who are suffering in pain while on massive waiting lists.

Since the beginning of the month, the surgical staff had been confined to performing just one surgery every two weeks. However budget constraints have left the patients without beds and medical staff.

He further added that if hospitals were given adequate funding the backlog of patients on waiting lists would be significantly reduced and he could carry on working as he was trained to do.

Despite the frustration, Dr O’Rourke said he was unwilling to move into the private sector.  "There is no satisfaction working in the health service at present. I could go and work in a private hospital but that would necessitate me leaving Donegal, which is my home,”

Although demand has increased this year, the surgical team have carried out fewer than 125 hip replacements and 45 knee replacements this year.

There has been a huge public outcry since the surgeons went public. A spokeswoman for the group, Patient Focus, said too many patients were suffering for too long under the HSE's mismanagement.

"It is being penny-wise and pound foolish," said Mary Tierney.

"There is the added pain factor as well as the need for external help, time off work, additional medicines and the increased risk of the patient falling, which just puts further pressure on the system.”

The HSE has responded by saying they were legally required to stay within their budget and that there may be further bed closures and reductions in staff, in the coming months. The spokesperson said, “It is the case that we are looking at different ways of doing that, and we are discussing these with our staff at the moment. We will be ceasing to do hip and knee replacements from our waiting list for a number of weeks.”

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