The opposition in Kerala is up in arms: 62 people have died since January due to fever, and the opposition has called this a deterioration of the health system in the state. The state Health Ministry meanwhile has defended the government, saying that while they did prepare for an outbreak of diseases, it was ‘severe’ this time, leading to deaths.
Speaking in the Assembly, Health Minister KK Shailaja said that of the 62 deaths since January, 24 people were infected with H1N1 influenza (swine flu). She was replying to the question raised by former health minister and MLA V Sivakumar. KK Shailaja said that climate change and drought caused the outbreak of diseases unexpectedly.
Sivakumar said that about seven lakh people sought treatment for fever in various government hospitals across Kerala in last four months and that the government was not equipped to handle the crisis. However, the Health Minister asserted that the government was doing enough to spread awareness and deal with the crisis effectively.
"The health department was well equipped and ready to tackle the outbreak of diseases since January. This year there was an increase in fever cases across south India. Compared to other states, Kerala was better,” the Minister said.
She added that the government had ensured an adequate quantity of medicines and proper number of doctors, and that Rs 72 lakh was sanctioned in the last four months exclusively to meet the requirements.
KK Shailaja also said that there were continuous review meetings by high level officials of health department regularly.
Opposition MLAs however walked out of the Assembly saying that the Minister’s reply was not satisfactory.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala also alleged that in coastal areas of the state the fever has been spreading and the government measures to tackle it was not satisfactory. He also said that there is no coordination between departments of LDF government. He alleged that lack of scientific waste management system was also a reason for Kerala’s sad plight. After the speaker denied permission to discuss the matter further, the Opposition staged a walk-out.
While a report published by The Hindu on May 7 said that 12 cases of H1N1 were reported in Kozhikode in the month of April, former Minister Sivakumar said that in May, seven out of the eight people died had H1N1 in the state.
A media report published in April this year quoted the statistics of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project of the Health Department, that pinned the number of confirmed cases of H1N1 to 233. Of this, at least 117 cases were reported in March alone. Till April 10, 16 people had lost their lives to the fever.
Recently, a 11-month-old baby died in Kozhikode, after which, the Health Department issued an advisory on the possible outbreak of H1N1 influenza.
Admitting that the state was in a grip of an H1N1 wave, minister Shylaja had assured that the government had left no stone unturned in taking precautionary measures.