Lack of hygiene and good health care in government-run hospitals and the exorbitant charges levied by private ones dominated the question hour in the Delhi Assembly on Thursday. The issue gained momentum when Speaker Yoganand Shastri drew attention to the over-charging of patients at private hospitals and asked the Delhi Health Minister A.K. Walia to “wield” a strict control on the sector.

Citing the case of a young girl who was brought to Apollo Hospital in Delhi with multiple fractures in her leg, Mr. Shastri told the House that the bill was a staggering Rs.27 lakh at the end of the treatment. Intervention from the Government saved the girl from having to pay the full amount, Mr. Shastri said.

He then asked Dr. Walia to ensure that the practice of over-charging is not allowed at private hospitals and the Government maintains a straight hold over their functioning.

Mr. Shastri said barring Chennai, no other city matches the services provided by hospitals in Delhi, but there is scope for more. He said a large number of people visit the Capital for treatment, accompanied by their attendants and on account of paucity of space, they are often without shelter and food, the Government should be able to do more for such cases.

Earlier, members drew attention to the inadequate services in government-run hospitals and poor infrastructure.

Speaking during question hour, Prahlad Singh Sawhney of the Congress complained that patients with burn injuries are asked to fetch their own bandages for treatment at the JPN Hospital and stray animals had a free run of the place. Even as Dr. Walia refuted the claims, Mr. Sawhney alleged that two persons who were admitted to the hospital with burns received at a fire in Chandni Chowk in June died due to negligence.

Admitting that there was a huge strain on the hospital staff owing to a high patient turn out, Dr. Walia, however, disputed the deaths on account of negligence. After a few members raised the issue of inadequate health services for the poor, and demanded more from the Government, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was compelled to step in and cite the constraints under which the Government and the government-run hospitals work.

She said the Government has its “limitations” and was “bound” by procedures, also, being answerable to auditing agencies including the Comptroller and the Auditor General, the norms cannot be flouted or services stretched beyond what is permissible.

The Chief Minister said a large number of patients who come to the hospitals in the city are from the neighbouring States and if the government or the doctors don’t abide by the laid down laws, they will be “hauled up”.