Many physicians choose to do locums – or temporary placements – in Ontario. Learn more about what a locum placement can offer you, how to get a placement, the requirements you need to have in place and how to make the experience a successful one.

What is a locum?

A locum refers to a physician who assumes another physician’s clinical duties on a temporary basis.

For new physicians, these placements provide diverse clinical experiences in different locations. For established physicians, locums offer the opportunity to explore new ways of practising or to hone specific skills. Some physicians may use locums as the start of a shift towards retirement.

Placements may be as short as a few hours or as long as a year. They may occur in any geographic region in the province or in any practice specialty.

Locums are a valuable component of the physician workforce because they enable the community physician to take time off for travel, illness, maternity/paternity leave or professional development. They are also an important component of government retention programs.

Ontario Physician Locum Programs

The Ontario Physician Locum Programs (OPLP), part of HealthForceOntario Marketing and Recruitment Agency (HFO MRA), administers 3 locum programs in Ontario:

How do I get a placement?

In addition to registering for the Ontario Physician Locum Programs (OPLP) and searching for OPLP locum positions on HFOJobs, you can find other locum placements outside of OPLP. Some are arranged between physicians and others are advertised publicly. Search for locum positions that are not part of OPLP on HFOJobs, as well. Define your search by geographic region, practice type, compensation type and/or other factors.

A Regional Advisor can assist you in finding a placement in the geographic region that you’d like to work and in applying for the locum position. Contact a Regional Advisor to begin your search.

What are the requirements?

To do a locum placement in Ontario, you must have the following four requirements in order:

  • Insurance: The cost of insurance will vary depending on the nature of service/specialty being provided (e.g. obstetrics, family medicine, emergency) as well as the jurisdiction in which the service is being delivered. Visit the Canadian Medical Protective Association web site for more information.
  • Provincial Practice Licence: A locum physician must have a licence from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. The Access Centre within HFO MRA can help you with the licensing process if you’re an internationally trained physician or a physician practising in the U.S.
  • Hospital Privileges: If a locum physician plans to work in a hospital, then hospital privileges will be required. The process can take a few days to weeks. Minimum requirements typically include a current provincial licence, documentation of adequate insurance coverage and letters of reference.
  • Billing Number: Locum physicians need an active Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) billing number. Payment structures range from a flat daily rate to a percentage of fee-for-service billings.

If you would like to do a locum in any one of HFO MRA's three Ontario Physician Locum Programs (OPLP), please review the eligibility requirements for the applicable program.

How do I ensure I have a good experience?

  • Take the time to explore the community and get to know the people. It will make your locum experience more enjoyable and help you evaluate whether you’d consider practising there on a permanent basis.
  • Discuss clinical expectations with the community physician in advance. Assess your skills and raise concerns about performing any procedures you’re uncomfortable with so backup can be arranged.
  • Ask for a written contract. It should set out the duties to be covered, overhead split, a daily minimum payment and the division of any additional remuneration (e.g. ER, hospital work, emergency shifts, on-call stipends).
  • Discuss how many patients you are expected to see an hour, particularly in a fee-for-service setting. But anticipate seeing about 1/3 fewer because patients often try to make an appointment before their regular physician leaves or wait until he/she returns.
  • Make realistic commitments. You don’t want to strand a physician or community with a last-minute cancellation.