KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 — A dentists’ group urged the government not to reverse the ceiling price of the three-ply surgical face mask from RM2 per unit to the earlier 80 sen limit to ensure continued supply.
The Malaysian Dental Association (MDA) said private dentists have been severely depleted of face mask supplies since last month amid the coronavirus outbreak, citing its survey this month that found more than 40 per cent of private dental clinics had less than one month’s supply.
“With the recent revision of the three-ply face mask ceiling price to RM2 per piece, the dental industry has only now managed to source for additional face masks.
“It is still a far cry from being able to replenish sufficient supply to ensure that we can carry on our services safely for the benefit of the public,” MDA said in a statement.
MDA said any reversal of the ceiling price of face masks to 80 sen per piece would quickly dry up supply due to market forces and even hoarding, forcing most dental clinics in Malaysia to shutter.
“When demand is high, cost of raw materials will go up and a low cap will be unreasonable and no suppliers want to sell, resulting in a blackmarket. If professionals cannot get facemasks, what are the chances of the general public getting any to protect themselves?”
MDA said with the incoming imports of 10 million face masks from China, assuming one million masks daily are required to supply frontliners like health care workers (doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, and paramedics), the police, the Armed Forces, and immigration personnel, 10 million face masks will only last for 10 days.
“The rest of the 31-million population will be left with no access to face masks to protect themselves.”
Many dental procedures are aerosol-generating, making dentists vulnerable to Covid-19 infection transmission, according to MDA.
MDA also told the public that during the national partial shutdown, private dentists would limit dental procedures to only emergency cases — including severe dental infection; severe oral facial pain; uncontrollable bleeding; dislodged crowns, bridges, fillings, or braces; and fractured dental appliance or dentures — to prevent production of aerosols in the air and also to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Aerosol – producing procedures such as fillings and scalings shall not be performed during this time. Dental practitioners will also be postponing and rescheduling non-urgent or elective cases to a later date,” said MDA.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told a press conference yesterday that he has instructed the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to discuss with manufacturers to ensure that the ceiling price of face masks is “not too high”.
“This is a crisis situation and we hope the responsible parties like manufacturers will ensure that supply is sufficient with appropriate prices,” he said.
The prime minister said he was informed that the four to five main face mask manufacturers in Malaysia have been facing problems in getting raw materials for the masks, as most of it is imported.
“However, we hope that they can resolve these problems and push the manufacturing capacity of masks in the country to two or three million units each month.
“If that can be done, then I think supply in the country is more than enough, especially since the Customs Department has decided to ban exports of masks.”
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said yesterday that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has obtained 33 million units of PPE, including face masks, for public health facilities, amid shortages that have seen health care workers tailor their own protective covers.
Private general practitioners (GPs) have also complained about a serious shortage of face masks, driving some clinics to shutter.