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The Ontario Medical Association is partnering with Toronto care-booking platform BookJane Inc. to connect physicians with hospitals and clinics that need them, hoping to relieve the burden on doctors stretched thin by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like other platforms that match supply and demand, such as Uber Technologies Inc.'s ride-hailing app, BookJane was built to match available caregivers with long-term care facilities and other organizations by letting both sign up and broadcast their availability. Now the platform has retooled itself to accommodate what could become the greatest demand for medical expertise in generations.

As the pandemic unfolded, the OMA began looking for a platform that could connect its 32,000 physician members – and an additional 10,000-plus retired members and trainees – with hospitals that desperately need doctors to sub in. When OMA staff found BookJane, they were impressed by its ease of use, and persuaded the Toronto startup to retool its platform for their members.

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“A time may come very soon, during this pandemic, when physician resources might need to be redistributed throughout the province,” said Dr. Sohail Gandhi, the OMA’s president. At least nine hospitals have gotten on board, he said, in part thanks to the Ontario Hospital Association notifying its own members of the partnership.

Now more than 1,500 physicians have signed up for the app and have begun taking shifts through it. The OMA hopes at least double that number will join. “Physicians, by their very nature, are always ready to step up and help,” Dr. Gandhi said.

Finding ways to improve staffing, he added, is crucial as COVID-19 cases spread. Italy has 4.1 doctors per 1,000 people, according to the World Bank, and its health system has been totally overwhelmed by the virus. Canada only has 2.6 physicians per 1,000.

The partnership began about three weeks ago. BookJane chief executive Curtis Khan said his several dozen staff worked around the clock to retool its platform for physicians. This included adding new criteria for matching the right people to hospitals and clinics, such as surgical and emergency medicine experience.

They went live at 5 p.m. on April 3, Mr. Khan said; within 48 hours, they had a thousand signups. Physicians can set a limit for how far they’re willing to travel and can broadcast their availability, while hospitals can broadcast their need.

BookJane is working with the OMA on approving and verifying physicians on the app, Mr. Khan said. And in addition to being screened for COVID-19 symptoms when they arrive at hospitals, physicians using the platform also need to answer questions about symptoms on the app.

“We take precautions on our side with all our workers because we work with the vulnerable,” Mr. Khan said.

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BookJane plans to reach out to similar medical associations in other jurisdictions. Because of its simplicity, Dr. Gandhi said, it has a natural appeal to physicians: “If you’re going to use an IT solution to attract doctors, it has to be easy to use.”

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