“All of those together means this is going to be a nightmare winter for the health service; You can’t really prepare for something like that, you can only really deal with it when it hits.” she told the Mercury (16/7/09).

Ms Picken is among a number of senior health appointments from the UK,  among them Department of Health and Human Services Secretary David Roberts and Deputy Secretary Care Reform Alice Burchill.

Ms Picken’s prediction follows that of DHHS a few weeks ago:  that in three months time, the Royal Hobart Hospital would have 90 patients on mechanical ventilation because of swine flu.

There is, however, capacity to ventilate only 30 patients in southern Tasmania.

DHHS Deputy Secretary Strategy Planning and Performance Catherine Katz has told Tasmanian Times this prediction - of 90 patients on mechanical ventilation - was based on a misunderstanding of pandemic modelling.

“Based on American experience, the modelling suggest 11% of those hospitalised may require intensive care,” she said. “But this would happen over a 12-week period not all at once.”

Tasmania’s health system will be at full stretch very soon because of a combination of swine flu, seasonal flu and whooping cough, says the Acting Public Health Director Chrissie Picken. Ms Picken says this winter is going to be one of the worst for respiratory illnesses the health service has dealt with in years.