THE Hospital Authority (HA) is losing control of public hospitals, with managers ignoring head office policies and spending money as they see fit, legislator and authority board member Michael Ho Mun-ka said yesterday. Mr Ho said nurses had complained money set aside for their training had been spent on other areas by managers who believed specialist nurses or nursing degrees were unnecessary. Hospitals have the power to fine-tune their budgets but not re-direct money earmarked for specific areas, while the authority's policy is to enhance post-basic training for nurses through degree courses as well as through specialist training. Mr Ho said: 'We urgently need a mechanism to monitor the process of hospital management rather than have them report only on results because, if the process is flawed, we will not find out until it is too late. 'The HA board, as well as the public, should also be told just how money is spent in individual hospitals so we can see whether or not we are getting value for money.' But a spokesman for the authority said that one main reason for setting up the authority was to rectify previous government management problems by decentralising power to the hospitals. The spokesman said there was also public representation at every major level of decision making at the authority. Another legislator and board member, Dr Leong Che-hung said hospitals were not acting beyond their powers by channelling money to other areas, just fine-tuning their budgets. He said: 'The HA was set up to slowly devolve power to the hospitals themselves within the framework of the HA and that is what has been happening. The previous set-up was criticised because it was too bureaucratic and we do not want to revert back to a situation where you have to see the director to change a light bulb. 'It is important that hospitals take responsibility for their own budgets and there should be even more devolution of power.' But Mr Ho accused other board members of being more interested in protecting the authority's image rather than making it more accountable. 'The HA has an enormous budget of $15 billion and it is reasonable for the board and the public to know just how this is being spent,' he said. Dr Leong said there was sufficient communication between the various hospitals and the head office. Mr Ho said that he had called for a special meeting of the Legislative Council's health services panel to discuss monitoring of the authority.