Dr Lee’s departure confirmed by officials

| 21/09/2021 | 90 Comments
Cayman News Service
Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee at a press briefing on 29 March 2020

(CNS): Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee, who became the face of the government’s COVID-19 navigation strategy, will be leaving by the end of the year, a few months ahead of the end of his contract, officials have confirmed. Dr Lee became a national hero to some during the lockdown as a result of his daily TV appearances outlining in detail the spread of the virus, how public health officials here were testing and tracing, and offering advice on how the country would get through the pandemic.

Revelations in a legal case brought by Doctors Express about his role in the unlawful seizure of cannabis medicines dented his reputation but the damning revelations were not enough for him to step down or be pushed out from his job.

The health ministry continued to stand by Dr Lee, even after a Grand Court judge found he had been untruthful under oath, based on documented email evidence, and had acted with improper motive when he played a part in a conspiracy involving the customs department to seize the medicines from the clinic. Government has not appealed the case and is understood to be in negotiations with Doctors Express, which is expected to receive significant damages from the public purse.

But Dr Lee is now leaving under his own terms. He said he is leaving to return to the UK to be with his parents, who are both elderly and in failing health.

Confirming his departure, the ministry thanked Dr Lee for “his invaluable contributions and hard work in helping to keep our country safe from the COVID-19 pandemic”, as officials wished him well.

Chief Officer Nellie Pouchie said the ministry does not comment on specific employee matters, but given the public nature of the CMO post and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the rumour about Dr Lee’s departure and why were being addressed officially. She said there will be a formal recruitment process to fill the CMO post and more information about that will be released later.

Speaking about his time in what became a very high profile role, Lee said the biggest challenges came from a direction none of us would have imagined. 

“It has not all been about COVID-19; I have also had the chance to consider the health are system of the islands from a strategic position and I will share my views before leaving post,” he said. “However, my parents’ health is failing and although I have tried to support them from afar, they really need me there and there is no one else able to help in this family matter. As a result, just over a month ago I shared my decision to leave my post in January 2022.

“Cayman has weathered the COVID-19 storm as it raged around us with determination, ingenuity and sheer hard work. We are now highly vaccinated as a community, but I hope those remaining would please consider protecting themselves further with the opportunity that vaccination brings,” he added.

Dr Lee said nothing about the Doctors Express case, but at the time he denied the court findings about him claiming to be acting in the public interest, despite the documented evidence that showed otherwise.

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Category: Health, Jobs, Local News

Comments (90)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    this country is beginning to sound like the political nonsense in the USA.

    I understand all the economic ramifications of delaying a border opening, but all I see is fat cats pushing for it; CITA, Tibbits etc, Dart, et alia. all about the $$$ CI.

    It is very probable that we, the word, will have to live in a Covid environment …… but, every country that has pre-maturely tried early openings has been hit with a resurgence of elevated infections and deaths, and many been forced to back into lockdown, regionally or country wide. I believe that the PACT is influenced by and pandering more to the business interests, than the safety of the population.

    They don’t really say a lot besides repetitive statements and their own dogma.

    Like I said, it sounds a lot like the USA now.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Does Lee have a Deputy CMO who is Caymanian that is understudy and has been trained since he was appointed, and we will have to start from scratch?. Or is this another example of no succession planning in the Civil Service where countless overseas hires have made themselves indispensable by hoarding information and training at our expense like the last Chief Fire Officer?

    When will there be accountability for these types of ‘Rooster’ Ups, which are hardly mistakes. We pay people big bucks to oversee these types of scenarios and the results are pathetic.

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s not how it works. Sorry.

      • Anonymous says:

        Just going to get 30 years experience in less than 8 years. How is that possible? You also have to have the brains and training behind it. Not to say its not possible, but its a slim to none scenario in any country not just in a country with less than 30,000 Cayman citizens.

    • Anon says:

      Have you ever considered, just for a second, that experts coming into Cayman with twenty plus years operating in an advanced economy, facing challenges managing institutions looking after MILLIONS of people and the obvious multiple challenges that comes with that can’t be replicated so a local can learn the job in two or even twenty years because the volume of challenges is infinitely smaller. That’s the problem here. There is no opportunity to ‘learn on the job’ to the standard required because not enough happens here. But then when it does, the expat has seen it, done it, handled it. The local not so. You buy in expertise precisely because they’re experts. If you replace with someone with no post education but nil experience you are setting up to fail. Send your best and brightest to the US or UK to gain experience there and come back after 5 or 10 years and they will be able to do the jobs. But be warned….you’ll be expected to work, turn up on time every time, not go sick at the drop of a hat and actually put the hours in EVERY day to get to the positions you desire.

  3. Beaumont Zodecloun says:

    Gosh, I had no idea we were living among such perfect people. How lucky is that???

    Thank you Dr. Lee. I wish you and yours well and hope you and Jasper remember us fondly. Come on back when things are sane.

    • Anonymous says:

      Stop being such a clown? This guy lied under oath which could have resulted in the conviction of innocent people, and you dismiss this with “I had no idea we were living among such perfect people”. Get a brain!

      CNS: Can you please stop writing this as it is wrong. There were no arrests or criminal charges following the raid on the clinic by customs. Therefore, there was no criminal trial and no possibility of anyone being convicted. What you are referring to is the judicial review filed by Doctors Express. The judge hearing the JR found that the raid was illegal. See here. This is not to defend anyone involved in the raid.

    • Anonymous says:

      BeZo, One can go to jail for perjury, it is a felony, not simply an “imperfection”

      • Beaumont Zodecloun says:

        I hear you. Still, I’ve done a lot of [expletive] things in my life, all the while trying to be a good and honest and decent person. I’ve helped a lot of people along the way, and that’s how I think of Dr. Lee. He isn’t perfect, but to read some of the comments that focus on the little bad and forget the larger good makes me think they believe themselves to be PERfect.

        Or….. to wander completely off-topic ….. let those among you without sin cast the first stone… ;o)

        I think Dr. Lee has done a good job for us. Yes, there have been some mistakes. He’s human. I think he carried us all through a very dangerous period with stars.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Can’t blame him. He understand we should be open. The government panicked. Good luck dr. Lee, I have no idea how you put up with those prayers and Jon Jon in those press conferences. They are so bizarre – the ministers spouting nonsense for hours whilst only dr Lee made any sense in every one.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Who wants to leave, just leave and stop talking crap about leaving , just go or shut up about leaving and ask not what the Government can do for you. But ask yourself what you can do to help out the Government. Remember Government are all the people living in these Islands.

    • Anonymous says:

      Does Dr. Lee prescribe Prozac?

    • Anonymous says:

      Lol say what?
      You must have a job for life with a hell of a paycheck to have that view.
      You know the reality is not the expats living Cayman. It is Caymanians wanting to leave their own country because this is no longer for them nor for their children.
      Government does not support its people. What has happened over the last two weeks clearly shows that Government has turned its back on a lot of its people.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Will he get his name in Heroes’ Square or is that only for local unknowns?

    • Anonymous says:

      Unknown to whom? We could not care less whether you know our heroes. Go back to the UK where you must be from with that attitude and give Nelson’s Column a big hug, then stay there.

      • Anon says:

        Heroes for what, playing tidllywinks…you hardly have war heroes in their thousands do you.

  7. Candid says:

    This is what makes people think Caymanians are too laid back. This man cost a local business huge amounts of money and lied about it on oath and yet he is being praised. He violated his oath as a doctor. They should have let him go and told the public that government cannot continue to employ an unprofessional person.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed, he was given a bit too much praise simply because he was a calm soothing voice at some press conferences.

      Objectively not everything he said was true and assuming he had to sign off on the Cayman Islands approach to things he got quite a bit of that wrong as well. Particularly when it comes to locking away large numbers of families due to positive tests at school.

      My understanding is that the Cayman Islands may be the only jurisdiction in the world that has yet to have a single false positive test result. We have also locked people away for extended periods of time for “shedding dead virus’ and being “weakly positive”

  8. Open up says:

    Cayman is doomed! We need new election.

  9. Anon says:

    I did not know he was British. Presumably once he’s left he’ll find it as difficult as everyone else to get back in if he wants a holiday?!

    • Anonymous says:

      Why would he want to come back for a holiday lol. Most Brits coming here are because they have family here. The cost of getting here, and the cost of staying here, compared with other Caribbean locations?

      • Anonymous says:

        BS, the Brits come here bcuz of the sunny weather and crystal clear waters and white soft sandy beaches.

        • Anonymous says:

          I call BS on your BS. Brits just don’t come here for a holiday unless they have property or have accomodation with friends or family. Too far, too expensive. They can get sunny weather, crystal clear water and soft sandy beaches elsewhere and cheaper. Cayman forgets that.

          • Anonymous says:

            I call BS on your called BS. I know many Brits who came here before Covid, and there have been a herd of Canadians and Brits who have come here after.

            People go where they want to go. People that enjoy the relative safety of the Cayman Islands do what they need to to come here; that won’t change.

            We have something unique here. Perhaps not as unique as it was before all the overbuilding of Grand Cayman, but the Sister Islands still have that tranquility to offer.

            • Anon says:

              You have nothing unique. The world is a big place and you have clearly not seen a lot of it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why would he come back here??????

    • Anonymous says:

      What? No quarantine in Britain! You just fly in. Why would it be difficult?

      • Anonymous says:

        OP meant get back into Cayman. Wonder how many expats ever return for a vacation- but I guess for the poster difficult to conceive that anyone would want to be anywhere else. Bet you it’s the last we will see of Dr Lee – clearly not on amicable terms with PACT and with a pending law suit.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Ahhh, the old adage rings true.. “only as good as your last mistake”. He did good by us 99% of the time and I applaud his efforts and his willingness to make some tough calls. Proving to have lied under oath however; well, that’s a no no, even for a hero. He will be missed and although the notice reads well “under his own terms’, its far from that, as his deception led to his downfall inevitably. Just saying the truth .. it is what it is.

    • Anonymous says:

      His deception led to his downfall? – I doubt that very much. No shortage of government officials do all sorts of things and skate – far more likely to be in the camp of not being able to stomach or agree with the governments line on border closure and regulation. You think his little piece to camera about how people in the UK have adapted to living with Covid and life goes on was a mere coincidence? Or that telling comment about how “I have also had the chance to consider the health care system of the islands from a strategic position and I will share my views before leaving [the] post.”. In the same camp as former police commissioners and auditor generals – and even Governors – methinks. You can be right, or you can be wrong, but you cant be a senior civil servant and be see to be openly critical of government.

  11. Anonymous says:

    To be remembered for his personal views on CBD overriding law, and the best one was banning jet skis because of covid.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much Dr.Lee best to you and your family.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Let’s hope that Dr Lee can assist in recommending his successor.

  14. Anonymous says:

    yikes…him and the governor are the only voices of reason on the press briefings…..
    imagine if it was just the likes of wayne, sabrina, kenneth et al…..

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Dr. Lee. We wish you and your family good health and all the best.

  16. Anonymous says:

    We don’t need Dr. Lee because we have Wayne Panton and the rest of PACT, who don’t need any help from anyone to know what’s best for the Cayman Islands when it comes to COVID. However, they’re not going to tell us their plan just yet. We will just stay closed for a year or two more and then, and only then, when we’ve all had enough time to prepare, they will let us know what their plan is. In the meantime, it’s a FREE MONEY giveaway to lots of people, except those evil money grabbers from CITA who are all just greedy foreigners who don’t care about Caymanians – which is evidenced by the fact that they won’t hire Caymanians for executive positions.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow, just wow. You are the antithesis of Cayman Kind. Hopefully there aren’t too many more of the likes of you out there. Try and reach down deep in your soul, if you have one, and see what a sterling job Dr. Lee has done for us during this pandemic.

      Try and have a nice day

      • Anonymous says:

        It was sarcasm, idiot. How can anyone take that seriously! Oh, wait…

      • Anonymous says:

        I believe they were attempting to provide sarcastic humor. You sound a bit unkind yourself. Perhaps a little self-reflection is warranted.

      • Anonymous says:

        He got paid good, so he only did his job.

      • Anonymous says:

        @ 1.22 Your reply is a great advert illustrating the need for a better education system.

        • Anonymous says:

          You said what you’ve said, but malice, sarcasm and cynicism has won you over. I feel sorry for you. Didn’t you learn in your elite schooling that you shall reap what you sow?


        • Anonymous says:

          we need special sarcasm font

    • Anonymous says:

      Because the caymanians are not qualified for those positions you fool.

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe next time end with a “/s” for the benefit of those without working sarcasm detectors?

  17. Anonymous says:

    Disappearing before those perjury charges come through from the Doctor’s Express raid. He is indeed a wise man.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Anyone with any sense is pacting up and leaving.

  19. Anon says:


    Dr Eryka Simmons needs to be CMO, or Dr Delroy Jefferson.

    This PACT team say they for the ppl – well, look ONSHORE for a CMO!

  20. Anonymous says:


  21. George Towner says:

    I believe he SEE something big coming, and just don’t want to be here when it comes.

    • Anonymous says:

      Can’t wait to leave myself.

      • Anonymous says:

        need any help? how can we get you out faster?

      • Anonymous says:

        Same. My family & I will be on a so-called “repatriation flight” when the U.S. opens its borders to int’l travel in early November (2021). Everyone needs a safe space to exist, to exhale, and to compact the events of this pandemic. It’s been so exhausting.

        • Anonymous says:

          Then you are in for a big surprise. But I do wish you and your family well.

          • Anonymous says:

            I am sure your whole life is a big surprise to you. I have been back to the States three times so far to take my family back and set them up and things are great there. Everything is open, functional, and people are nice to each other. Yes we all wear masks. But death is still not something on every ones minds like here.

        • Anonymous says:

          US borders ARE open to international travel. How the hell you think Caymanians been back and forth this whole time?

          There were specific areas that you couldn’t travel to the US from but Cayman certainly wasn’t one of them.

          • Hubert says:

            Many Caymanians have American passports Bobo.

            • Anonymous says:

              Plenty Caymanian-Americans…and many homes are divided on who should remain in the Cayman Islands, and who should go (to the U.S.) to properly establish roots. Many are facing the problem of who can reliably and honestly care for Cayman Islands properties/(property up-keep) & care for pets. MY CayMerican Household will be boarding a flight when the U.S. Open its borders for international travel in November.

    • Anonymous says:

      He smells the rat coming, its always better to leave on your own terms than somebody else’s.

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