Health sector needs $1.1b boost just 'to stand still' - CTU

The Council of Trade Union (CTU) says the health system needs a huge funding increase just to maintain current services.

It calculates $1.1 billion is the minimum needed by the sector when the Government unveils its budget on Thursday.

Shirley Walthew is one of many reliant on the health system and needs a knee surgery.

She's getting used to reading letters telling her she can't even get on the waiting list - she says she's been trying since 2013.

"It's now bone on bone, they just grind on each other," she says.

"What do you have to do to get on there?"

Ms Walthew fell on her knees during the Christchurch quake and since then, they've deteriorated.

She finds it hard to work, hard to stand and hard to sleep, only getting around three hours sleep each night if she's lucky.

But that's not enough - one doctor told her how extreme it'd have to get.

"He said I'd have to be in a wheelchair before they'd consider it bad enough, which I thought was astounding," she says.

Ms Walthew is not alone.

Almost one in 10 New Zealanders have unmet health needs and with the Budget coming this week, she's hoping the health sector will get a big boost.

CTU economist and director of policy Bill Rosenberg has run the numbers and says it needs $1.1 billion just to "stand still".

The figure is made up of $721 million to compensate for population growth and wage increases, while the rest is funding already announced policies.

Mr Rosenberg says it's a modest estimate and without it, "it's going to be patients who miss out".

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman's out of the country so sent a statement dismissing the figure as "traditional pre-Budget positioning" by the unions and said people should wait until Budget Day.

Ms Walthew is hanging out until Thursday, but she wants more than $1.1 billion.

"The status quo isn't going to fix the problem. All it means is I'll still be waiting, other people like me will still be waiting," she said.

The Government has a $1.5 billion cap for new spending each year and health chewing up the majority of that is unlikely.

So how much could the health system be in for? Well, in the words of the Health Minister: wait until Thursday.