Shortage of face masks in private healthcare sector

  • Letters
  • Wednesday, 18 Mar 2020

THE Council of the Malaysian Dental Association recently received numerous emails from members practising in the private sector, expressing their concern over the acute shortage in the supply of surgical face masks since the Covid-19 outbreak.

The association conducted an internal survey among members in the private sector to assess the plight of the private dental practitioners. The survey revealed that a shocking 40% of the 2,500 private dental clinics with 3,800 dental practitioners will run out of surgical face masks in the next one month and another 40% in the next two months if the critically low supply continues.

This figure is extremely alarming as dental practitioners and dental auxiliaries are constantly exposed to contaminated aerosols generated from most of the dental/ oral cavity procedures in their healthcare facilities. Therefore, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be maintained to prevent any possible cross contamination within the healthcare facilities.

Dentistry is one of the front lines in our healthcare system which must not be neglected in this current Covid-19 crisis. It is an essential service and should be maintained even during critical periods.

The MDA council would like to urge the government to ensure that the supply of surgical face masks to all healthcare providers in both the public and private sector is not disrupted.

All export of locally made surgical face masks must be banned.

The lifting of the ceiling prices by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry is commendable as raw material prices for surgical face masks would have increased many folds by now.

The MDA would also like to suggest to the current surgical face mask manufacturers that dedicate their supply solely to government hospitals and institutions that they allocate a fair distribution to private dental clinics to resolve this acute shortage of surgical face masks.

Importers of surgical face masks should also prioritise the supply to the private dental industry at reasonable prices.

In a recent announcement, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said that China has promised to assist Malaysia by providing medical equipment and supplies to deal with the outbreak. We seek the government’s assistance to channel the surgical face mask supply to mitigate the shortage in the private dental sector.

These action plans will allow private dental care to function to its optimal standards. Any disruption of the private healthcare system will directly or indirectly further burden the public healthcare system.

If the current shortage persists, the government should continue to monitor the movement of surgical face masks and ensure that all affected private dental clinics get at least two to three boxes of these masks per month to safeguard the health and well-being of the dental practitioners and dental auxiliaries. The MDA looks forward to the swift action of Malaysia government to ensure a continued supply of surgical face masks, especially in the private sector.

We are more than happy to meet, discuss and assist in whatever way to safeguard the well-being of both patients and the dental teams.


THE Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM) would like to fully support the measures taken by the Health Ministry to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. One must always remember that our private medical practitioners are also in the front line of this fight.

However, we have received feedback that there is indeed a shortage of personal protective equipment like masks and hand sanitisers, which are basic essential items in this fight. This has been an ongoing situation since the beginning of the outbreak three months ago.

We appeal to the Health Ministry to help address this problem as our doctors and staff are putting their lives at risk attending to and treating all patients coming to their clinics.

We urge the Health Ministry to immediately implement a mechanism to divert sufficient stock of such essential items, including face masks, to the private sector for the patients and medical staff there, otherwise many clinics will have to close. Widespread closure of the front-line GP clinics will mean that government facilities will be flooded and this will be disastrous in the current scenario. There is ample data from around the world now to call for compulsory masking.

The previous advice to wear a mask only if you are symptomatic is illogical as those who are asymptomatic can also spread the virus unknowingly. Furthermore, some symptomatic patients do not wear a mask or simply cannot get masks because they are not available.

At present, our members are advised to adhere to Health Ministry guidelines and to refer all prima facie cases to the nearest government hospital for further management.

We advise all patients under self-quarantine at home to regularly update their condition with their family doctor, maintain good personal hygiene, including proper hand washing, and take all the necessary sensible precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

We support the strategy to break the chain of transmission by pre-emptive quarantine, early diagnosis, compulsory masking, good personal hygiene and allow viral clearance before resuming normal community life.

The best outcome will be when this is done as a concerted national effort. The Health Ministry cannot fight this war alone.




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