This may be to hold a spot for a local physician who is taking time off for personal reasons, or it may be that a community is in need of that particular specialty and has not yet found a permanent person for the spot. Locum tenens work fills these vacancies on an interim basis.
For the physician, it's a great opportunity to explore interesting sites, avoid the expense of starting a practice, and consider a move to another state. The hospital, practice, or community generally does not directly contact the physician, but uses a locums company who keeps records, checks licenses, supplies insurances, covers travel expenses and pays the physician for the assignment. It is critical that the physician who accepts a position have all aspects of the arrangement verified in writing prior to accepting the contract. The locums company works to meet the needs of the practice, not the applying physician.
Things to consider:
Have hours specified explicitly in the contract. If going to Colorado in hopes of skiing, be sure the contract allows enough time to do this. If the job description says you'll never be more than an hour from the clinic, or are always on call, skiing won't be possible. It is important to have the contract state times for sleep as well. The physician shouldn't be expected to be on-call 24/7 as the call will probably never end.
Duties should be spelled out, such as clinic hours, scheduled surgeries, on-call, or trauma expectations. As an orthopedic surgeon, you will have expectations of diagnostic capabilities and the necessary treatment equipment. Be sure it's spelled out in the contract if there is no MRI or if arthroscopic equipment is dated.
The length of the contract should be specific, not open-ended. If this is a temporary replacement for a known length of time, that should be stated. If it is a stop-gap measure with no specific time line, that can be dealt with by making the contract specify a certain length of time that can be adjusted later with agreement by both parties.
Payment terms must be clear in the contract. Coverage for travel, lodging, and malpractice insurance should be included and not be the expense of the physician. The hourly rate should be spelled out and payment times and frequency should be specific.
There should also be a plan for the physician leaving the assignment. Wording in the contract should allow him or her to leave, with notice, if things don't work out.
If you're thinking of going to a ski resort so you can ski and help care for the skiing-related injuries, this could be the perfect solution for you and the town. Just make sure to do your homework so it doesn't end up that the town gets exactly what it wants but you're the only person in town too busy to hit the slopes.