In the 1930s, transfusion practice was in its most basic phase of development. Hospitals would request a donation and when a suitable donor was found, they would report to the hospital. There, blood would be transfused directly from the donor to the recipient with only a screen separating them – a far cry from today’s procedures!
The first blood bank was established in 1939 and was able to provide blood serum and whole blood to military hospitals for the duration of the Second World War.
In 1942, the Service obtained its own building in the Cape Town city centre where three donors could be accommodated at a time. Back then, blood was being collected in Horlicks milk bottles.
At this stage, blood was delivered to government laboratories for cross-matching. It was these very government laboratories who eventually assisted the Service in developing suitable storage techniques and serum processing.