WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) has announced that it will start a "phased approach" to restarting home care services in the city this week.

The WRHA said clients will be prioritized based on those who voluntarily chose to cancel health services and instead receive support from family members.

The health authority added extra precautions will be in place to protect both clients and staff, and all clients will be screened for COVID-19 before each home visit.

“This has been a challenging time for all Winnipeggers and we are happy to have had the support of families and friends of our clients during this time to provide much needed support effectively combatting isolation while simultaneously providing for their health needs,” said Jennifer Spencer, acting director of palliative and home care services for the WRHA, in a news release.

The WRHA said not all clients will get services resumed, and that is based upon health risks and preference.

“We are resuming services on a graduated basis to ensure those with the highest health needs are supported first. It is imperative that our resumption of services continue in a safe and cautious manner as we continue to follow evolving direction from Shared Health and Public Health officials,” said Spencer.

During a news conference Monday afternoon, Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer with shared Health, said all regions in Manitoba will begin resuming home care services gradually.

“Throughout the spring, when we were at high active levels of COVID, home care case coordinators were in regular contact with clients and families to make sure they checked in and followed up on any emerging concerns, and now that the curve has been flattened, home care coordinators continue to contact clients and families to discuss resuming these services, and whether they’re still required,” she said.

Siragusa said the services being restored are priority one and two services, which includes meal preparation and helping clients get dressed.

Wab Kinew, leader of the NDP Official Opposition, said home care has been an area of the COVID-19 pandemic where the province has fallen short.

“This is an essential service that seniors in our community need, and the government didn’t get it right when they had to cut people off, and now that they’re going to open it back up just a trickle, to a very small number of people, I’m concerned that it’s going to really negatively impact a lot of seniors," said Kinew

“When a senior can live in the community, with home care, it allows them to reduce the risk of exposing themselves to the pandemic, and it allows them to stay healthier. When the government artificially limits the amount of home care out there, it can either increase risk for seniors, or it means those sort of care functions are going to have to be done by that elders’ friends, family, or even neighbours.”

Kinew added he is also concerned about only a small number of home care services being offered at the moment, and wants to see access to home care expanded, and delivered through the public system, not by private providers.

“This is part of fighting the pandemic,” he said. “If you have a strong, public home care system, you could make sure every senior could stay home as much as possible, and not have to go out as often, just to take care of their basic needs for health care issues.”