Locum Agreements for Dentists | Contract for temporary replacement (part 1)
Please note that the information provided herein is not legal advice and is provided for informational and educational purposes only. If you need legal advice, contact me (David Mayzel) or Michael Carabash.
In this blog I will be discussing locum agreements which dentists should have in place in the event a dentist is unable to physically be at their dental practice.
The contract all Ontario dentists need to have
There are times in a dentist’s practice when he or she will find themselves away from their dental practice for a fixed or uncertain period of time. This time away from the dental practice could be as short as 2 weeks or as long as 2 years or more depending on the reason for the absence. Reasons for an absence can include the dentist desiring to take a family vacation, the dentist taking maternity or paternity leave, the dentist suffering a sudden medical infirmity, the dentist having to deal with the illness or death of a family member or the dentist requiring time to undergo their own medical procedure and convalescence.
Since a dentist’s primary business is attending to and serving their patients’ dental needs, what happens to a dentist’s business when they are away from the practice? Does the dentist simply put a sign on the door and change the office’s answering machine to advise their patients that the office will be closed? Does the dentist try to reschedule weeks or months worth of appointments? Does the dentist temporarily lay-off their staff? What about the patients that booked appointments months prior to attend for a recall appointment or the patient that scheduled time off work to undergo a cosmetic dental procedure? More subtly, does the absence affect the value of the dentist’s practice or undermine the years of effort the dentist put in to building their practice (or maintaining the dental practice they bought from another dentist)? The short answer for any dentist is to take the simple, yet necessary, step to prevent their practice from spoiling or suffering undue risk or loss by not maintaining the active relationship the dentist and his/her practice has with the patients. So what is that step? The answer is a locum agreement!
The Locum Agreement
A locum agreement is a contract between the dentist who will be away from their dental practice (let’s call this dentist the “owner dentist”) with a dentist or dentists who will temporarily be providing dental services to the owner dentist’s patients while the owner dentist is away from the practice (let’s call this dentist(s) the “locum dentist”). For ease, think of the locum dentist as a supply teacher. The locum agreement will be the rule book and documented arrangement between the owner dentist and the locum dentist. This contract is one that should definitely be negotiated and finalized well in advance of the owner dentist knowing or discovering that they will have to be away from their practice [think of the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure]. It is also the type of contract that should be reviewed on a yearly basis as the owner dentist’s practice could change over the course of the year or the locum dentist that the owner dentist had planned to use could be unable to provide the locum services due to changes in the locum dentist’s own dental practice or personal life.
* I will be continuing my discussion of locum agreements, including the advantages of such a contract and the usual terms and conditions in my next blog.