Call on Health Ministry to withdraw 34 (1) of the Dental Bill 2017

The Health Ministry’s insistence to segregate dental general practitioners and specialists would not improve the quality of dental services but would instead result in expensive procedures and long wait that will only burden patients.

The Dental Bill has been discussed between the Health Ministry and the dental fraternity since 2012 during Liow Tiong Lai’s tenure as Minister of Health. A sticking point throughout is the intention of the Health Ministry to bar dental general practitioners from certain procedures and restrict the right to perform these procedures to specialists instead.

Section 34 (1) “A practitioner whose name does not appear in the Specialist Division of the Dental Register shall not practice as a dental specialist in that specialty,” which will see only dentists with post-graduate specialist qualification specified by the Dental Council and recognized by the Dental Specialists’ Evaluation Committee being considered as specialists.

The intention to encourage the professionalization of the dental fraternity is noble, but only when it would not result in massive backlog of cases and expensive dental fees for the public.

The segregation of dental general practitioners and specialists is not even feasible and realistic within the Government’s own health service. There are very few specialists within the Service and there is an acute shortage of specialists in smaller towns and secondary cities (particularly in Sabah and Sarawak). The same goes for private practices.

Currently, dental general practitioners are involved in areas which may be labelled as “specialists”, such as restorative dental, prosthodontic, periodontics, orthodontic, endodontic, and oral surgery. If Section 34 (1) is to be implemented, dental general practitioners would be relegated to do the most basic dental services. A patient would be required to see a dental general practitioner who would then recommend the person to a specialist.

The policy objective of the Dental Bill should be to improve overall dental health of the nation and ensure most Malaysians are provided with dental care affordably and not to create new barriers to dental care for millions of ordinary Malaysians. The Government and Health Ministry should explain to the public how Section 34 (1) of the Dental Bill can improve accessibility to dental care or results in expensive dental costs to the Government and to the general public.

The Dental Bill was presented to Parliament on Tuesday 28th November 2017 and expected to be passed today. The Bill should not have been “parachuted” in such a manner with only practically a day for MPs to digest the content. The Health Ministry should have had the courtesy to present it much earlier, for instance, at the start of this Parliamentary sitting on 23rd October 2017.

We share the concerns and views of the Malaysian Dental Association and call on Minister of Health Datuk Seri S. Subramaniam to withdraw Section 34 (1) with an amendment to the Bill. The talk that the Bill cannot be amended is nonsensical. Just yesterday, the Government, through Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, just proposed an amendment to the Dangerous Drug Act amendment bill to grant judges full discretion to decide on whether to hand down a death sentence or a life sentence by removing the need to have Attorney-General’s certificate of consent.

Joint media statement by Liew Chin Tong, DAP MP for Kluang, Alice Lau Kiong Yieng, MP for Lanang, and Dr. Ng Kee Chung, dentist/DAP member in Johor, on 30th November 2017

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