In an effort to alleviate the distance emergency blood needs to travel to reach patients, the Western Cape Blood Service (WCBS) launched the first township-based blood bank in Khayelitsha on Wednesday 18 September. The Khayelitsha blood bank is the fifth blood bank in the Western Cape in addition to the ones at Tygerberg Hospital, Groote Schuur Hospital, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and the one in Somerset West. “It is a remarkable milestone opening our first blood bank in over 20 years and there is no better place than here, at the Khayelitsha District Hospital,” said Dr Gregory Bellairs, chief executive officer and medical director at WCBS. According to Bellairs, this new blood bank will be operational for 24-hours a day. Bellairs celebrates that the Khayelitsha Hospital blood bank is ideally situated in one of the larger state hospitals and now enhances delivery to the surrounding areas. “Because the burden of disease and epidemic trauma is the highest on the Cape Flats, the establishment of this blood bank allows us to bring the supply closer to patients who need it,” said Bellairs. The WCBS currently has enough blood for two days and urgently calls on, especially group O+ and O- donors to donate blood. Irene van Schalkwyk, public relations, planning and promotions manager at WCBS, said: “We would like to appeal to all new, and regular eligible donors who belong to the O group to please come and donate blood as we are experiencing a severe shortage of this type. The demand for group O blood is always high, as this is the universal blood group and the one that is used in an emergency, where there is no time to determine the patient’s blood type.” Khayelitsha blood bank supervisor and biomedical scientist, Fuzlyn Riffel, took City Vision on a mind-opening, informative tour of the bank. “One unit of blood is really shared a long way,” Riffel says. According to Riffel, blood supply is on high demand: not just for accidents, stabbings and shootings, but also for leukemia patients. Riffel explained the process of how donated blood is tested, and separated into components (plasma, platelets and red blood cells), which are kept at blood banks. According to Riffel, when blood is requested for a patient, a sample of the patient’s blood is cross-matched against a sample of the blood in stock, to determine the most compatible match. The Khayelitsha Hospital blood bank encourages all community members who qualify to donate blood to come forth and do so, as the blood donated saves lives. People who are older than 16 and younger than 75, weigh more than 50kg, healthy on the day of donation and lead a safe sexual lifestyle are urged to be blood donors. To find out where to donate visit www.wcbs.org.za.