BELFAST Trust has refused to specify how many ventilators it has following revelations that health workers are being forced to choose which Covid-19 patients are “fit” for ventilation.

It comes after the niece of a West Belfast man Vincent ‘Vinty’ Macklin, who died from Coronavirus, told how he was not deemed fit for a ventilator due to a physical disability.

His niece Annaleigh Walsh described how the “value” of her wheelchair-bound uncle’s life was “judged” on his inability to walk.

The 55-year-old passed away in the Mater Hospital on April 9.

Following the revelations, the Andersonstown News asked Belfast Trust how many ventilators it currently has for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

A spokesperson said the Trust has “enough capacity to cope” with current demand, and stated that the Department of Health is seeking “additional capacity”. However, Belfast Trust refused to confirm how many ventilators it currently has, adding that it has “nothing further to add” to our questions.

Belfast Trust has similarly refused to confirm how many Covid-19 patients have been admitted to hospitals in its area. As well as the Royal Victoria and Musgrave Park Hospitals, it also operates the Coronavirus-dedicated Mater Hospital and the City Hospital, which has been designated as a Nightingal hospital during the pandemic. 

Responding to criticisms around Mr Macklin’s death, a Belfast Trust spokesperson said: “We are truly sorry for the loss the Macklin family have experienced at this difficult time. Losing a family member to Covid-19 is particularly difficult and we have contacted the Macklin family to discuss their specific concerns.

"The decision to ventilate a patient is taken by a clinician, in line with government guidance, and a number of factors have to be taken into consideration before placing a patient on a ventilator. As a health and social care provider protecting patients in our care is central to our values.”

At the time of writing (April 16) there have been 2,201 confirmed cases of Covid-19 across the Six Counties, 158 of whom have died.

There are currently 165 ventilators in the North with a further 190 on order. An additional 650 breathing support machines have also been ordered.