The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “oral health is a key indicator of overall health, well-being and quality of life.”
The Malaysian Dental Association (MDA) is committed to helping to bring quality dentistry that is affordable and accessible to the public.
The moratorium on new dental schools and dental students was initially intended to control the exponential increase of dental graduates in Malaysia. This moratorium, which ended on February 28, 2018, was later revisited by both the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) in 2019.
The MDA is of the opinion that the moratorium needs to be maintained, and this is supported in its annual general meeting in 2019. Since then, there was no further update by the MOE on the status of the moratorium.
It has now been brought to the attention of the MDA that the MOE is looking into the possibility of lifting the moratorium. The MDA is saddened by the fact that there was no proper engagement with the relevant stakeholders. Though unofficial, the MDA was made to understand that the moratorium will not be lifted after all.
Since 2005, the number of dental schools have increased from three to 13. Including overseas graduates, we are producing 1,000 to 1,200 dental graduates a year.
This has overwhelmed the ability of the public service to absorb them for compulsory service, hence the long wait for many graduates for a place in public service. This exponential growth has not only overwhelmed the public sector, but also the private sector, in providing adequate jobs for these graduates.
The MDA is deeply concerned that continuing to overproduce dental graduates will be counterproductive for the nation. We therefore hope that the moratorium on new dental schools and student intakes that ended on February 28, 2018, be maintained.
We strongly feel that lifting the moratorium now would have devastating effects on overall dental services in the long run, be it to the public or the dental practitioners themselves. With a staggering average of more than 1,000 new registrants and 400 dental practitioners entering the private sector in recent years, the MDA feels that any further uncontrolled influx of dental graduates will continue to choke the workforce both in the public and private sectors.
The Public Service Department is already facing difficulties in providing permanent posts for dental officers in the MOH’s Oral Health Programme, due to limited posts and facilities. Coupled with a concentration of private dental clinics in urban areas, the lifting of the moratorium will lead to unhealthy competition and even sustainability of services.
On this note, a regular update on locations of private dental clinics should be made easily available to assist private dental practitioners in deciding where to set up new dental clinics.
Although the number of new registrants from foreign institution has seen a downward trend in the past two to three years, it is important to understand that this moratorium only applies to local graduates, and we have no control over overseas graduates who will be coming back to add to the statistics.
The MDA believes that maintaining the moratorium will ensure only high-quality and well-trained dental graduates are produced. Until these issues have been effectively addressed, the MDA believes maintaining the moratorium is the way to go for now.
A multi-stakeholder engagement will be necessary prior to lifting of this moratorium. This statement comes after due deliberation by the council of the MDA.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.