Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala called on Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday to brief him about the "health department's failure" to contain the dengue outbreak in the state.
On Saturday, of the 19,000 patients who reported at hospitals with fever, there were 680 suspected dengue cases, of which 138 were tested positive. Also, 11 people died on Saturday, taking the dengue toll in the state to 115 this year.
According to reports, the worst affected districts are Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Palakkad.
Figures provided by the health department indicate that on an average, in June, daily over 10,000 people came to hospitals with fever.
After meeting Vijayan at his official residence, Chennithala, who is also Leader of Opposition in the Kerala assembly, said "the situation is very grave".
"This peculiar situation has risen because the health department failed to rise to the occasion ahead of the rains in the state. No measure was taken to do cleaning operations that generally take place before the arrival of monsoon rains," Chennithala said.
"The temporary cleaning staff, who were in service, were terminated and hence no proper sanitation programme was conducted," the Congress leader added.
Chennithala also said that "I have been told that there is a shortage of medicines and health professionals to tackle this raging fever".
"We are not going to launch any sort of protest. Instead, we have directed all our legislators to see that they take the lead and on June 20, start massive cleaning operations in their constituencies."
"The health department, including the Health Minister, has been a total failure and I have asked Vijayan to see that he immediately takes corrective steps. He has promised to intervene by calling a meeting of top health officials," added Chennithala.
However, Health Minister K.K. Shylaja defended her department's initiatives and said "its work before the rains is unprecedented but the results appear different".
"The need of the hour is not to make this a political issue and work together to keep the surroundings clean," she said.
Though Kerala has a well accounted state-run health department, a large number of people visit the private healthcare centres. Hence, private hospitals in the affected districts are also overflowing with patients.
"Patients are lying in the corridor and availing treatment. The situation looks really bad," said a health professional of a leading private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram district.