LISTEN | 'I did it for humanity': SA doctor says she hoped viral FB post would expose what's happening

Dr Lara Norris, a community service doctor in the Western Cape, said she was tired, battered down and struggling against the Covid-19 third wave.

08 July 2021 - 06:00
Dr Lara Norris has caused a stir on social media after an open letter she wrote went viral.
Dr Lara Norris has caused a stir on social media after an open letter she wrote went viral.
Image: Supplied

A frustrated medical doctor has caused a stir on social media after an open letter she wrote on social media went viral.

Dr Lara Norris, a community service doctor based at George Hospital in the Western Cape, said that, like many others, she is tired, battered and struggling against the Covid-19 third wave.

And in a moment of deep emotion and frustration, she opened her heart on social media.

“I did not have a political agenda. I did it for humanitarian reasons. As I sit here, I am watching them wheel a ventilated Covid-19 patient into ICU, and I am wishing the people out there could just see this,” she said during an interview with TimesLIVE on Wednesday.

The angry vent, posted on her private Facebook page, has attracted hundreds of comments and been shared more than 1,700 times. And, “of course there have been your usual trolls”.

In the post, she describes increasing numbers of once-optimistic doctors turning to therapy, drugs and alcohol as they try to deal with the unfolding crisis.

The letter appears to have touched a nerve, with many people thanking her for her honest words and brave stance. Her descriptions lay bare the Covid-19 wave that is dragging SA’s healthcare services down. She says doctors are being failed at every turn.

In her letter, Norris speaks about being let down by government, which has failed to place qualified doctors in paid posts, and then only to import Cuban doctors and nominate them for a Nobel prize.

This she describes as “a slap in the face of those on the front line” and “money wasted when we have some of the best trained doctors on the planet”.

She talks about doctors being let down by colleagues: “We expect fresh-faced interns with no ICU nor Covid-19 experience to run full Covid-19 ICUs.”

And, she says, doctors have also been let down by the people of SA.

“We don’t ask for much. We just ask that you wear a mask. We ask that you clean your hands. We ask that you stay at home when you can. [But] you walk around with your mask over your chin ... you spread blatant lies on social media ... and find every obscure article from obscure, uncredited sources to scare each other from getting a proven vaccine,” she wrote.

She ends with a heartfelt appeal: “Start looking after your healthcare workers. No-one on this planet is more tired of this pandemic than we are. We are depressed. We are demotivated. We are sick of preaching the same story to a wall.  No-one is going to be there for you when we aren’t around.”

LISTEN | Dr Lara Norris pleads with SA: 

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Below is Norris’s open letter. It has not been edited.

“A letter to each and every South African ...

It’s another wave. You’d think we’d know what we’re doing by now. For healthcare workers? It feels like we’re in an ocean. I’ve seen smiling faces full of optimism descend into cynicism. I’ve seen more and more doctors turn to therapy. Turn to alcohol and drugs. We don and we doff. We’re trying to catch up. But it’s an episode of Wiley coyote and the Roadrunner. And we don’t know where the end point is.

We’ve been let down by our government. Covid-19 funds have been mismanaged. I’ve watched our colleagues post-community service sit at home. Yet we have this shortage of doctors. We imported Cuban trained doctors and our government nominated them for the Nobel prize. A slap in the face to those on the front line. Money wasted when we have some of the best trained doctors on the planet.

We’ve been let down by our colleagues. We expect the impossible from junior staff. We expect fresh-faced interns with no ICU nor Covid-19 experience to run full Covid-19 ICUs. A generation of doctors who will survive the pandemic and probably walk out with PTSD or depression. Or an anxiety disorder. How is that fair on our interns and those working their community service?

Finally we’ve been let down by SA. We don’t ask for much. We just ask that you wear a mask. We ask that you clean your hands. We ask that you stay at home when you can. When you walk around with your mask over your chin. When you spread blatant lies on social media. When you use an anti-PARASITIC for a virus (Ivermectin) and find every obscure article from obscure uncredited source to scare each other from getting a proven vaccine. Just to let you all know, healthcare workers who have been vaccinated and have contracted Covid-19: 94% have mild disease, 4% have moderate, 2% severe disease. Vaccines work. Stop spreading lies on Facebook. A YouTube video does not discredit academia who research and track data. South Africans, start looking after your healthcare workers. No-one on this planet is more tired of this pandemic than we are. We are tired. We are depressed. We are demotivated. We are sick of preaching the same story to a wall.  No-one is going to be there for you when we aren’t around.

TimesLIVE


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