Dear beloved members and colleagues,
The impact of COVID-19 has indeed hit the world really hard and Malaysia is of no exception. At the time of writing, 8th May 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported over 3.7 million cases globally and almost 260,000 death worldwide. The government of Malaysia has taken an unprecedented move through enforcing a Movement Control Order (MCO) since 18th March 2020 in order to control the escalating number of cases in the nation, also known as flattening the curve, so as to ensure that the outbreak is well under controlled and does not overwhelmed the capabilities of our health facilities. Yes, we have done it, and with many phases of the MCO in placed, one after another and with the recent relaxation of MCO, or Conditional MCO, being enforced since 4th May 2020, we have seen the numbers of new cases reducing to well below 100 cases a day for the past many days.
The Malaysian Dental Association first noticed of this potential issue of COVID-19 and its consequences to the practice of Dentistry way back in January 2020. China has issued a lockdown in many areas just before and after Chinese New Year. I must also personally thank a member from the MDA Southern Zone who further alerted us the seriousness of COVID-19 and to push for an immediate release of a safety advisory to our members. The first MDA Safety Advisory was issued in 2nd February 2020, before the implementation of MCO, and has undergone many revisions since then. During the MCO, statements were also issued to members on the need to observe the need to restrict dental treatment to only emergency care during the height of the pandemic outbreak in Malaysia and also dissemination of public statements for this matter.
The Association understands the great impact the pandemic has on many sectors in the country, including dental services, be it directly and indirectly. The sudden increase in the demand and cost of PPE has been challenging to all dental clinics. The shortage of raw material for surgical face masks in the earlier months of the year has increased the cost of production and makes some of the suppliers difficult to meet the ceiling price set. During the MCO, patients flow has greatly reduced in all clinics, with some resorting to close their clinics, and this has affected the income of these practitioners while at the same time having to fulfil many financial commitments, such financing loans, payment of staffs and many others.
Hence, over the past 4 months, MDA has taken various actions amidst the COVID-19 outbreak in Malaysia:Hence, over the past 4 months, MDA has taken various actions amidst the COVID-19 outbreak in Malaysia:
1. Issuance of statements and advisories for clinical practice that are revised from time to time, from before MCO, during MCO and during Conditional MCO.
2. Assistance to members in the procurement and rationing of surgical face masks.
3. Issuance of supporting letters to members to request waiver or reduction of rental from landlords.
4. Issuance of supporting letters to members for negotiation of repayment of loans from respective leasing companies as these leasing companies do not enjoy the same benefit as banks who are able to offer moratorium on loan repayment.
5. Preliminary engagement with MDA Private Practitioners Section and an online poll / survey was also conducted among private dental practitioners to study the economic impact of the MCO in the private sector.
6. Appeal letter to Ministry of Finance to request for similar moratorium of loan repayment to be extended to leasing companies. Unfortunately, we have yet to hear reply from the Ministry.
7. Letter to Malaysian Dental Council to seek advice on appropriate actions required of dental practitioners to avoid possible litigation following declining of dental treatment in patients who falls under the high probability risk of being infected by SAR-COV-2.
8. Issuance of public statements for the general public on social media and press during MCO. This is necessary so that the general public understands why there is limitation to only emergency dental treatment.
9. Letter to Malaysian Dental Council to re-look at the accreditations of CPD points for online lectures under category A8 during the times of restriction in mass gathering. In fact, during the MCO, MDA has organised one webinar under World Oral Health 2020 and another 2 more webinar is in the planning.9. Letter to Malaysian Dental Council to re-look at the accreditations of CPD points for online lectures under category A8 during the times of restriction in mass gathering. In fact, during the MCO, MDA has organised one webinar under World Oral Health 2020 and another 2 more webinar is in the planning.
10. Worked with affiliate, Malaysian Endodontic Society, in production of Endodontic guidelines for use during the COVID-19 outbreak.
11. Sharing of information, guidelines and experiences with other National Dental Associations during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The course of the COVID-19 is long, and COVID-19 is highly contagious even during the incubation period. Once Malaysia exits fully from MCO, we will be entering a different phase of managing the contagion in the country. Precautions will still need to be in place as we head towards a “new-norm” in our life. The fact that social distancing needs to be observed and avoidance of unnecessary mass gatherings, will continue to affect the Association. This “new-norm” will in many ways bring uncertainties to running of the Association. On the 16th March 2020, the Registrar of Societies (RoS) has banned all societies from holding any activity, including annual general meetings (AGM) until the end of June 2020. We are also awaiting instructions and advice from authorities if our largest annual scientific meet, Malaysian – International Dental Exhibition and Conference (MIDEC) 2020, scheduled to be held in August 2020 at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on 28 – 30 August 2020, will still be able to proceed as planned. We shall keep members updated on the new date for our AGM and the progress of MIDEC 2020.
Indeed, even after the last phase of MCO, hopefully to end by 12th May 2020, it will not be a “full stop” but a “coma” in our lives. A “coma” because, we are called to continue to be on guard as COVID-19 will still be around for many months ahead and different countries will be at different level of managing the outbreak. Although, we no longer limit our practice to just emergency dental treatment, we need ensure that our clinics has new SOPs in place to cater for the “new-norm” of running our practices. We should take a “soft-landing” approach so as not to jam-pack our appointments during the initial phase of the relaxation of MCO. I wish all of you to continue to stay safe. We know the dust is settling and the sky is now becoming clearer. I wish to end my message by wishing all our Muslim colleagues a blessed Ramadhan month ahead and Selamat Hari Raya.
Yours in MDA,
Kei Joe LEONG