"We want all our actions, dictated by patients' health needs, to be supported by knowledge and skills of the highest level, and the delievery of our health services to be based on professionalism and quality."
These are the words of the mission statement which the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine Health Resort puts into practice. They set the direction of the development of the whole institution, but are also an expression of ideals and passion which all its employees carry in their hearts. In order to understand the meaning of these words in-depth, we should go back many centuries to the beginning of treatment in the underground of the salt mine.
The treatment properties of salt have been known since antiquity. It is no wonder; after all, salt is one of the elements which every living organism needs to live. The use of the Wieliczka salt in medicine was commented upon by humanists visiting the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine, who recommended the use of salt-based medications for a variety of ailments. However, the real development of the town of Wieliczka as a health resort started in the nineteenth century thanks to the-then saltworks physician Dr. Felix Boczkowski. Taking advantage of the medical advances and the fashion for health resorts which prevailed at that time in Europe, he opened in the 1839 the first bath-house facilities in Wieliczka, offering brine baths, baths in salt mud and sulphuric waters brought over from the Swoszowice spa, as well as steam inhalations. Boczkowski was a good manager and thought not only about the patients' treatment, but also made sure that their stay in Wieliczka would be pleasant and interesting, ordering the town and establishing a park where patients, in accordance with the tradition of world-famous resorts, could relax to the music of an orchestra. In Wieliczka, naturally, it was the miners' orchestra. This splendid development of the Health Resort was interrupted by the turmoil of history, which did not spare Wieliczka, putting an end to Boczkowki's lofty plans.
His ideas were revived... only a century later, by Professor Mieczyslaw Skulimowski, who became in 1958 the official physician of the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine and started regular treatment in the salt chambers, thereby initiating a new field of medicine - subterraneotherapy. It consists in exposing the patients to predetermined elements of the microclimate of salt excavations. After a period devoted to experimentation and the development of a unique therapeutic method, Poland's and the world's first underground health resort of its kind was created at the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine in 1964, which was then transformed into the "Kinga" Health Resort Hospital. The hospital enjoyed a growing fame, and gradually Skulimowski's creation started attracting patients not only from Poland, but also from around the world.
The traditions of treatment in Wieliczka were continued by the Underground Rehabilitation - Treatment Centre, created in 2003, and operated as a branch of the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine. Thanks to the passion and commitment of those creating the centre, a unique program of pulmonary rehabilitation using subterraneotherapy methods was created, included by Poland's Ministry of Health in the "guaranteed services" package. In 2011, by the decision of the Minister of Health, the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine achieved the status of an underground health resort. A year later, it was renamed the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine Health Resort.
The next pages of Health Resort history are still to be written. New development directions are determined on a grand scale and basing on the best practices of modern medicine. But it is the patients' needs which always determine the final direction of development!