WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government announced on Wednesday it is providing $7.7 million to help personal care homes with costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Minister Cameron Friesen made the announcement, saying the province told personal care home operators their top priority should be patient care and not financial considerations.

“Today’s announcement is another promise kept by this government, as reimbursement payments have been delivered to PCH operators,” he said in a news release.

The province said that earlier in the year, it told regional health authorities to assess the incremental expenditures related to COVID-19 at personal care homes and community-funded agencies. It added that each health authority worked with care home operators and community-funded agencies to receive and submit the eligible costs, which include staffing enhanced cleaning, and moving to a one-site model.

The Manitoba government will give one-time funding for the quarters of 2020-21, as well as for the remaining 2020-21 quarter thereafter.

Friesen noted the province gave about $7.7 million to regional health authorities for the first two quarters.

“Protecting our seniors and vulnerable residents has been a priority of government since the start of the pandemic,” he said.

“We gave notice early on that we will provide this funding, ensuring front-line services weren’t affected financially, and we are pleased to now be making these payments.”

In a statement, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said long-term care homes have paid a “terrible price” for the province’s failure to plan for the second wave of COVID-19.

“This funding--which works out to a meagre $50,000 per facility--is an indictment of just how little the PCs invested in care homes for staffing and PPE between March and September,” he said.

“We saw in October and November the terrible toll that lack of preparation exacted on our seniors. Our loved ones deserve better from this government."