Former St Louise's art teacher's cancer surgery 'withdrawn' due to Covid-19
A retired art teacher's NHS jaw cancer surgery was "withdrawn" as Covid-19 sapped the resources of Northern Ireland's health system.
Concerns around personal protective equipment were responsible, friends of John Price added.
He taught at St Louise's Comprehensive College in Belfast and is from Lisburn.
He has launched a fundraising appeal to pay back debts incurred following private treatment in London.
His friend Mark Hewitt said: "John worked his whole life; contributing to the NHS.
"When he needed it most, he found that it had been irreparably damaged and was unable to provide him with the care he needed.
"John is 69 and is retired. He has just been through life-saving surgery. He shouldn't be left with these debts hanging over him.
"We knew that people would rally around to try to help him out, if they knew what was happening."
A crowd funding campaign has been launched to help pay back the debt.
In March the 69-year-old was diagnosed with oral cancer after a routine trip to the dentist revealed an unusual growth.
He was told that he had an advanced and aggressive tumour and that he would need to have a mandibulectomy (jaw removal) and reconstruction.
This would need to take place right away, given the stage of his tumour, doctors said.
His friend added: "Within days, he received the shocking news, that the offer of surgery and reconstruction had been withdrawn due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with concerns around Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) cited as the reason."
He said private healthcare providers in England were his only way of getting timely treatment.
The former teacher obtained loans of £50,000 to fund his treatment before it was carried out.
Barbara Muldoon, another of the fundraising campaign organisers, said: "John's former school, St Louise's, Comprehensive College was formerly an all girls school.
"It is so noticeable that over 90% of donations are from females."
She added: "Some of the amounts have been quite modest and we have received so many private messages from people, apologising that they can't afford more and explaining that they have no income and no savings due to the current economic situation.
"It is amazing that even in their own difficult circumstances, they have still stretched themselves to do everything to try to help 'Mr Price'."
So far over 750 people have made donations worth almost £20,000.
Oncologists from the Belfast trust have said some cancer surgeries were being delayed as the health service focuses on combating Covid-19.
Northern Ireland's "Nightingale" hospital at the Belfast City Hospital tower block is being temporarily stood down, health chiefs said, and that should allow some non-Covid work to resume.
The funding page is: https://www.gofundme.com/f/weh8m-for-john