Taiwan dental graduates in Malaysia should not be left in a lurch before enforcement of new Dental Act 2018

Wong showing the press the letter by FAATUM to MDC dated March 26, 2020.

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By Ling Hui

KUCHING, Oct 2: Malaysian dental graduates from Taiwanese universities should be recognised and registered with the Malaysian Dental Council (MDC) directly after passing the Taiwan board examination, before the implementation of the new Dental Act 2018.

Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) Dudong Branch chief Wong Ching Yong said these dental graduates should not be left in a lurch, not being able to work or intern at government hospitals, nor commence private practices due to non-recognition of their qualifications, when the Dental Act 2018 is only effective starting 2023.

Passed in parliament in April, 2018 but yet to be enforced, the Dental Act 2018 provides that effective 2023, all dental graduates irrespective of where they graduate from, have to sit for a common Malaysian Dental Qualifying Examination before practising in Malaysia.

While there is not much objection with the Dental Act 2018 whereby all dental graduates are given equal examination before practice, Wong and the Federation of Associations of Taiwan Universities Alumni Malaysia (FAATUM) urged the Ministry of Health (MOH) to consider the situation of such graduates between now and 2023.

Previously on Dec 16, 2019, a meeting was held between FAATUM, MDC and MOH to discuss a 2016 order signed by the then Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam requiring dental graduates from Taiwan schools to sit for a local exam conducted only in Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) even if they passed the Taiwan Board examination to be able to practice in Malaysia.

According to SUPP Education Bureau, the consensus reached in that meeting was the abolishment of the 2016 order thus allowing any dental graduates from seven listed Taiwan schools to register with MDC immediately until 2021.

The schools included Taiwan University School of Medicine, National Defense School of Medicine, Yangming University School of Medicine, Taipei Medical University, Zhongshan Medical University and Kaohsiung Medical University.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham, who was MDC president at the time, however, clarified that the 2016 order was not abolished, but instead amendment was made to the criteria for registration of dental graduates under the old Dental Act 1971.

Dr Noor Hisham in a letter to FAATUM dated Feb 19, 2020, said the latest criteria is “only applicable to graduates applying to register from 2016 to 2021 or until the Dental Act 2018 is implemented, whichever comes first”.

Disagreeing with this statement, FAATUM in a letter dated March 26, 2020 to Dr Noor Hisham said its request was for the criteria to “remain effective for Taiwan graduates applying to register from 2016 to 2021 or until the Dental Act 2018 is fully implemented, whichever comes later”.

This is to mean that while the Dental Act 2018 has yet to be enforced, dental graduates from Taiwan universities should be recognised and qualified to practice in Malaysia, not only until 2021.

“But there has been no reply from the ministry ever since March 26, 2020.

“So, we hope that the government will revert back to their former recognition so that these students from Taiwan universities will not face unnecessary pressure,” said Wong in a virtual press conference today.

In fact, he pointed out, it was announced in 1996 that the seven Taiwan dental schools were recognised under the Dental Act 1971, and that graduates from these schools can register with MDC without any pre-requisites and serve in government hospitals.

Later on Jul 18, 2019, Dr Noor Hisham said basic dental qualifications from Taiwan dental schools were never gazetted under the Dental Act 1971, hence never listed under Second Schedule of the said Act, despite multiple records of confirmation from former Health Ministers including Chua Jui Ming, Liow Tiong Lai, and former Health DG Tan Sri Dr Abu Bakar Suleiman that the Taiwan schools are indeed recognised.

On a related issue with regards to the implementation of the Dental Act 2018, Wong said recognition of the seven Taiwan dental schools should be gazetted immediately and thus their graduates can be given the same exemption of five years’ period to be registered.

“Graduates of the seven dental schools from Taiwan must enjoy the same exemption because it is the MDC which had neglected to gazette the recognition in 1996 for whatever reasons,” he added.

Among those also present during the press conference were SUPP Education Bureau chairman Datuk Ding Kuong Hiing, FAATUM Sarawak branch chairman Ting Chiong Won, lawyer Ngeow Yiing Yi, FAATUM legal advisors Marcus Lee and Victor Lau. — DayakDaily