A former federal cabinet minister has begun helping out at a Markham facility for vulnerable adults that is dealing with a staffing crisis due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Jane Philpott, a former family doctor who resigned from her position as president of the Treasury Board over the SNC Lavalin scandal, was seen arriving at Participation House in full hospital scrubs on Easter Sunday following reports that the facility was missing more than two-thirds of its staff after many walked off the job late last week.

The facility, which provides care for 42 residents with developmental and physical disabilities, is now down to about 10 staff members from its usual compliment of 35.

At this point it is unclear what role Philpott is playing or how long she plans to be helping out at the facility.

“We have tried over the last few days to try to secure help through various avenues but nothing has materialized from those avenues and what we are seeing now is that the staff who are here are tired and they are getting sick, some people are going home sick,” Executive Director Shelley Brillinger told CP24 on Sunday morning.

“It is very unnerving knowing what can happen. We don’t want to be one of those stories. If we can get on top of this (the outbreak) and treat it the right way with the right resources it can be a very different story in terms of outcome.”

Brillinger has previously said that the outbreak includes 10 residents and two staff members who tested positive for COVID-19.

She said that once the outbreak was confirmed on Thursday night, a number of staff “from all departments” walked off the job, leaving few unionized employees left at the facility.

She said that she “understands people’s fear” and is not necessarily angry at people who have refused to come to work but is growing increasingly concerned about the wellbeing of her staff who remain on the job.

She said that some nurses, for example, have been working upwards of 40 hours at a time with a six-hour break to sleep in between stints. Others, she said, are even sleeping in the physiotherapy room at the facility to ensure they remain close should they be needed.

“The morale is terrible because people feel like no one is coming,” she said. “I am not suggesting that people aren’t working behind the scene but to date we haven’t seen anything materialize in terms of on the ground support.”