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Flying ‘tooth ferries’ to serve rural folk’s dental needs

The Star

Tuesday, 21/06/2011

Flying 'tooth ferries' to serve rural folk's dental needs
By RUBEN SARIO

KOTA KINABALU: Rural folk in Sabah having dental problems can expect to be attended to by their own "tooth ferries" four helicopters used to bring dental care to the villagers.

The state Health Department launched the country's first flying dental team yesterday, to complement its existing flying doctors service.

Its director Dr Mohd Yusof Ibrahim said the flying dental service would initially serve 14 remote settlements along the state's west coast. "The teams, comprising a dentist and two nurses, will fly to the villages along with the medical teams.

"They will be able to provide basic dental services such as tooth extractions, fillings and simple screenings for oral cancer, which is quite prevalent among rural communities due to betel nut chewing," he said.

The flying dental team, added Dr Mohd Yusof, would visit a village once a month, providing esssential services for the folk who were otherwise unable to go to the nearest towns to seek treatment.

He said that in the long-term, mini clinics would also be set up at 800 rural schools in the state to serve the communities in those areas.

Schools were suitable locations for the mini-clinics as these already had infrastructure such as water and electricity supply, said Dr Mohd Yusof.

"We will have a medical assistant and several nurses at these clinics," he said, adding that the facilities would be built over the next 10 years under the 10th and 11th Malaysia Plans.

He said as part of its flying doctor operation, the department would also be introducing a medical emergency evacuation service (Medevac) by next year.

Dr Yusof said tenders would be called for the service, which would require the use of four helicopters to be based in Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan.

He said the Medevac service was necessary to reduce the transfer time for patients in rural hospitals to the city, which could take up to three hours by road.

Dr Yusof said the department was also hoping to launch a boat mobile clinic by August to serve those living along Malaysia's second longest river, Sungai Kinabatangan.

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