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      Welcome to the CATHCA Website!

Who we are:

CATHCA is the Catholic Health Care Association of Southern Africa. Some of us are doctors, some nurses, some community health workers, or other health professionals, and many of us are lay people doing voluntary work as home based caregivers, administrators, bookkeepers, or looking after orphans or the elderly in homes and care centres across the country. 

Where we are:

We work around the country in all nine Provinces of South Africa, and in Botswana and Swaziland, in 38 clinics, two hospitals, many old age homes, hospices, orphanages and many Diocesan and parish projects combating HIV/AIDS.  See the button marked "Members" to the left.  

  CATHCA e-news  

Winter edition 2013

 Greetings from us all at CATHCA, where the uncharacteristically warm weather has led to surprisingly early signs of spring, with new leaves on deciduous trees and spring bulbs starting to appear, despite cold nights.

 In this edition:

News of the KZN regional conference, an important workshop on the future of Catholic health care in South Africa and progress being made on the regional secretariat of the Catholic regional health network, and guidance on making good choices.

 News from the CATHCA office

Our final regional conference of the year was held at Glenmore Pastoral Centre in Durban from June 7th to 9th, attended by 25 delegates, excluding CATHCA staff, representing nine organisations. Catholic clinics in Kwa-Zulu Natal are currently under extreme financial pressure so it was good to have an opportunity to hear about their situation.

 Teresa Whitaker and Maureen Newbery joined the CATHCA staff to manage the Catholic regional health network (see more below) in June. Gill and Yvonne attended the 6th SA AIDS Conference in Durban in June, which was an upbeat occasion as increasingly good news on progress made against the AIDS pandemic continues to emerge, while the Clinic Assessment team of Frances Steele, Gill and Teresa began their schedule of assessment visits to rural Catholic clinics in July, visiting, Amakasi, Noyi Basi and Matikwe, all in Kwa-Zulu Natal. We are busy arranging home-based care training for projects in the Limpopo, North-West, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Eastern Cape provinces and contracting with training service providers to run these over the next few months.

 Yvonne attended a briefing by the South African Minister of Health, Dr Motsoaledi, to the South African Council of Churches on the HIV situation, where the co-operation of the churches was sought on HIV prevention, particularly in discouraging young girls from ‘sugar-daddy’ relationships. She also attended a seminar on the Department of Basic Education’s draft National Policy on HIV and TB. CATHCA will send in a joint submission on this to the Department together with the Catholic Institute of Education.

 For the 4th year running CATHCA has been awarded stipends for its health care workers in the diocese of Aliwal North in the Eastern Cape province, under the Extended Public Works Programme, although this year the number of stipends was reduced from 300 to 260. Besides several home-based care projects coordinated by the diocese, Fatima House and Living Waters also benefit from this programme. This year’s funding will cover 14 working days per month over nine months.

 The Catholic health regional network

The regional secretariat for the Catholic regional health network is currently being hosted by CATHCA, in its first year. Teresa Whitaker as regional manager and Maureen Newbery as admin assistant are tasked with taking it forward, and to date have compiled and circulated an MOU for each country in the network to sign, and have been busy collecting and collating information from the Catholic health care bodies in the various countries of the network. Part of their task is to establish a database on the work each national body is doing. Funding has been received for the establishment and running of the secretariat for the first year, and for the Pastoral Care programme that is its first joint initiative.

 The future for Catholic health care in South Africa.

At a meeting of the KZN Catholic regional health care network it was agreed ,in light of the funding crisis at several of our Catholic health facilities due to the withdrawal of government funding, that it had become critical to hold a strategic workshop on Catholic health care in South Africa. It was felt that we were at a crossroads in Catholic health care, very similar to that where we gave up our Catholic hospitals in the '70s.

 CATHCA coordinated and funded this workshop that was held in Durban on July 18th and 19th 2013, attended by 26 provincials and representatives of religious nursing congregations, bishops from Eshowe, Umzimkulu, Dundee, Mariannhill and Kokstad dioceses  and other Church organisations, and facilitated by Raymond Perrier of the Jesuit Institute. Those attending the workshop felt that when the many assets of Catholic health care in this country  were considered -  our richness in health care experience, strong spiritual values, land and buildings, skilled volunteers and a high quality holistic health service developed over many years and in trying situations – it would be, as one bishop phrased it, ‘a betrayal’ of our health care heritage, and of the support we have received over the years from donors and communities alike, to relinquish it without seeking new ways to live out our Catholic values through health care. They saw Catholic health care as being the ‘leaven’ in society, integral to the Church’s mission, and consolidating and integrating its services, so that for example two or more religious congregations might work together and pool their resources. It was suggested that we should return to our grassroots - where Catholic health care began before it moved into institutional health care.

 A committee was formed, of Dr Douglas Ross, Yvonne Morgan, Sr Alison Munro, Bishop Graham Rose and Sr Christine Jacob, to consider all options and explore ways to take the discussion further. A discussion document will be circulated for comment among key stakeholders, and the full findings and recommendations will be presented to the bishops at the November plenary.

 Useful links and articles

 1.       The World Health Organisation’s new guidelines on initiation onto anti-retrovirals

WHO's guidelines now recommend that HAART be initiated for all people living with HIV who have CD4 cell counts of 500 cells per μL or below, all HIV-infected children younger than 5 years, and all individuals with concomitant hepatitis B, chronic liver disease, and active tuberculosis, irrespective of CD4 cell count.  However, the guidelines note that individuals with CD4 cell counts below 350 cells per μL should be given priority for treatment. WHO's guidelines also endorse Option B+, which entails that all women found to be infected with HIV during pregnancy should be offered HAART and, for those who start treatment, continue on it for the rest of their lives.

With a focus on earlier initiation of HAART to decrease transmission of HIV, the revised guidelines now recommend that HIV-infected individuals in serodiscordant partnerships should be offered treatment irrespective of CD4 cell count. WHO also recommends that treatment should focus on use of single pill, fixed dose combination HAART for initial regimens (with tenofovir/emtricitabine or lamivudine/efavirenz combinations as the preferred starting regimens), and that people in whom first-line regimens fail should be managed with reduced pill burdens.

The social and economic implications of the revised guidelines are substantial. There are currently close to 10 million HIV-infected people receiving HAART, almost 90% of whom live in Africa.3 WHO's 2010 guidelines4 aimed for 16·7 million people with HIV to be on antiretroviral treatment, whereas in the 2013 guidelines the desired number is now 25·9 million people. This increase is based on estimates that there are about 5·3 million adults and children currently living with CD4 cell counts between 350 and 500 cells per μL and 3·9 million HIV-infected pregnant women and serodiscordant couples, all of whom would be candidates for treatment under the revised guidelines.2

The public health benefits of expanded treatment are predicated on expectations that if more people are virologically suppressed they will transmit fewer HIV infections, which would result in lower costs in the long run as the epidemic contracts. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)61578-0/fulltext
The Lancet,  Volume 382, Issue 9889, Pages 287 - 288, 27 July 2013

 2.       Making Good Choices – Fr Thomas Plastow.S.J.

St. Ignatius gave his followers sets of rules for making wise choices.  As we pray for Zimbabwe this week, let us remember that we may have less than a year to go before our next general election.  If we have been thinking and praying about a decision we have to make, but are still not clear in our minds, St. Ignatius suggests the following:

Given that all real love comes from God above, I should ask myself whether I am truly choosing out of love.  Does my choice fit with my love of God?
I should imagine that I have to give sound, dispassionate advice to someone else.  Then I should consider whether I am able to take my own advice.
I ask myself that if I were on my deathbed, which choice would I have wished to have made?  Again, if I imagine that I am at the Day of Judgement, which choice would fill me with happiness and joy when before my God?
Having contemplated these things, I should then offer my choice to God in prayer.

A good decision is one made in freedom.  We do not make the end fit the means.  A good decision is always one that leads us to greater service and praise of God – and that always presupposes a commitment to the well-being of others.  Love maturely, pray honestly, then decide.

3. Pope Francis and Catholic Health Care in the USA 

PHILADELPHIA, May 17, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Pope Francis has set the tone for his papacy and for the whole Church in the years ahead with three concise points in his homily on March 14, 2013: “Journeying, building, professing.”[1] I would suggest there is a clear takeaway for institutions whose mission and identity are bound up with Catholic Christian charity: Do not let worldly concerns transform you into mere social assistance programs or utility-driven “service providers.” It is an echo of Benedict XVI’s affirmation in Deus Caritas Est, no. 31, which he repeated and emphasized in the introduction to his motu proprio On the Service of Charity: “The Church’s charitable activity at all levels must avoid the risk of becoming just another form of organized social assistance.”


Catholic health care has journeyed greatly, both geographically and administratively, through and since its missionary origins in the early days of our country’s history. Much has changed in the way health care is delivered and in the way hospitals and caregivers are organized: medical professional associations, technological and scientific knowledge advancement, costs and payment, and governmental involvement have moved health care in novel directions with respect to that original response to the Catholic Christian calling to care for the sick and the poor. The circumstances and means have changed, but the core vocation of bringing both physical and spiritual healing and comfort must not be lost. 


Catholic health care has built extensively. There are 630 Catholic hospitals in the United States with 641,000 full-time employees, which handle over 5,450,000 patient admissions and 100,000,000 outpatient visits per year. Most significantly, Catholic health care has built in the Church’s spirit of charity: “Catholic hospitals often provide a higher percentage of public health and specialty services than other health care providers. These organizations’ dedication to the common good often leads them to offer these traditionally ‘unprofitable’ services.”

Catholic health care is part of building the Church: “We speak of . . . building the Church, the Bride of Christ, on the cornerstone that is the Lord himself.”] We should not stop building Catholic health care as times and circumstances change, but we cannot build it properly without “living stones, anointed by the Holy Spirit,” willing to ensure that its foundation is Christ.


Jesus Christ is crucified and we cannot profess him without the Cross. “When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly.” Catholic health care may journey far and build extensively, “but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong.” It is not hard to shift the focus from the fullness of the Christian message to those aspects which will fit with the demands of the world here and now. An organization need not be Catholic to be classified as a non-profit charitable organization. But the government’s definition of charity is not Christ crucified: “We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord.”  

John A. DiCamilo is a staff ethicist for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia



CATHCA produces a regular e-mail newsletter called e-NEWS, with information about current CATHCA activities, new developments in the health field, courses and conferences, and news about health legislation.  If you wish to subscribe, fill in your details and click on the button marked "Subscribe" below:

More information

Click on a button on the left for more information about CATHCA, its history, membership, addresses of clinics and other institutions, structure, parish nursing programme, staff members, work with HIV/AIDS, and medicines.  

Contact details: CATHCA, P O Box 52015, Saxonwold, 2132

St. Vincent School for the Deaf, 158 Oxford Road, Melrose, Johannesburg

Telephone: +27 11 880 4022  Fax: +27 11 880 4084

E-mail : info@cathca.co.za