Nature has generously endowed the region of Slatina, sparing it neither beauty nor healing power. Rich in fauna and with a natural thermal mineral spring, the small town of Slatina is located only twelve kilometers northeast of Banjaluka, at an altitude of 206 meters. It is abundant in strawberry farms and primarily serves as a holiday destinations whose unique characteristics offer visitors an escape from the stresses of urban life.
By: Maja Garača
Besides its natural beauty, Slatina has a continental climate, with satisfactory average temperatures and moderate wind, which together with the natural surroundings create the perfect setting for a therapeutic destination.
Slatina is, in fact, home to a health oasis. Located away from the harmful effects of a large city and the pollutant industrial chimneys, surrounded by fresh air and lush greenery is Spa Slatina, a modern facility that offers hope, rest, recovery and recreation to its visitors.
The Spa was built during the Austro-Hungarian rule, around the lavish thermo-mineral waters. Today this institution carries the name of the national hero, Dr. Miroslav Zotovic, and its overall complex has expanded to encompass a spa treatment with modern equipment and highly educated personnel, trained to lead the recovery of patients and visitors.
Spa Slatina is a health center that utilizes water as its basic ingredient and offers rejuvenation of both body and soul. This is of particular importance given that the modern way of life is burdened by elements that negatively affect physical and psychological health.
Some cultures believe that health is not merely the absence of disease or symptom, but a state of optimal well-being, vitality and wholeness. Spa Slatina provides this form of well-being, focusing on prevention as much as treatment. Therefore it is not only a medical institution offering rehabilitation following serious health problems, but within its plentiful program it offers psycho-physical exercises and relaxation methods which enhance the body’s balance and in turn prevent disease.
Dr. Dragana Jankovic, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, has treated numerous patients, all of whom have left Spa Slatina feeling rejuvenated. She explains that this spa is unique in Republika Srpska as it offers comprehensive rehabilitation using mainly natural resources.
„Patients in Spa Slatina receive all of the benefits provided by physical therapy with the latest medical equipment, thermo mineral water and artificial healing mud. The patients are also exposed to climatic factors, long-term climate and short time weather, which are ideal in Slatina“, clarified Dr. Jankovic.
The natural and medicinal properties of the spa are complemented by a large team of highly – educated medical staff. The rehabilitation team consists of doctors, specialists in the field of medicine and rehabilitation, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, psychologists and social workers.
“Most of the therapist have a university education and were trained in specific techniques utilized here. All employees, from nurses to doctors undergo continuous medical training. For example, individuals on our medical staff who have participated in conferences and seminars, have a responsibility to share their newly acquired knowledge with their colleagues. We have a wholehearted, team approach to the treatment of our visitors”, described Dr. Jankovic.
The spa focuses on the treatment of individuals with priority diseases such as heart disease, rheumatic diseases, sports injuries, circulatory, certain forms of infertility, degenerative disease and trauma. The spa’s natural resources aid in the recovery of such patients, assisted by the latest medical devices for electrotherapy, magnetic therapy, laser therapy, phototherapy, ultrasound therapy and kinetic therapy.
The spa is part of a chain of government health institutions; hence the staff has the obligation to prioritize those with severe health problems. For now, there is not enough space available for those who simply want to enjoy the gifts of Slatina and do not have serious health problems.
However, as Dr. Jankovic explains the prevention of disease is more important than its remediation. For this reason Spa Slatina offers a small wellness center, located in one of its pavilions and available for short term visits.
Despite its size, it is the jewel of the complex, offering visitors a natural retreat from their busy schedules, a chance to exercise in thermal water swimming pools, take an invigorating mud bath, let off steam in a sauna, take a nature walk, relax in a Jacuzzi and enjoy various types of massages. This area of the spa is open to everyone and is focused entirely on relaxing the mind and body. Furthermore, it provides a hint as to the potential future of Spa Slatina and what could be done with a little more funding.
When considering the thermal spring waters, the fresh air, the green fields, it is clear that Slatina is the perfect destination for the realization of health tourism. Throughout the years this form of tourism has become very widespread in the region but hasn’t yet received popularity in Republika Srpska.
A hurdle in the promotion of this natural resource is the spa’s limited capacity. It can only accommodate around 300 people and beds are dispersed throughout two hotels and two pavilions. Due to visitor demand exceeding capacity, there is plenty of justification for infrastructural expansion.
Investment in extra funding Spa Slatina would greatly benefit Srpska in an economic and aesthetic sense. The extra funds would go towards the expansion of the spa’s capacities and of its wellness offerings and would put it on the map of tourist destinations worth visiting.
Banjaluka is the only city in Republika Srpska which has three thermo water sources within a 20 km radius. There is hope that in the near future, Spa Slatina will expand to encompass another thermo mineral water complex in Seher, located only a few kilometers from the center of Banjaluka in another naturally endowed region of Srpska.
Spokeswoman for the Institute for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Dr. Miroslav Zotovic, Natasa Sandic, explained that Spa Slatina is the concessionaire of the Seher water, but that plans towards its rejuvenation are currently on hold. “I believe that the ministry is doing its best. I am sure that our wishes and hopes will be realized at some point. Seher is planned to be one of the more modern spas in the region, aimed primarily at treating children and athletes. This complex would reduce the waiting list for spa treatment.”
Furthermore, in order for its natural potentials to be fully realized there is a need for amendments to the law on medical institutions which prevents their use for tourist activities. This ultimately prohibits Slatina from attracting visitors through marketing and leaves its natural beauties in tourism limbo.
“We, as a health care institution do not have the legal basis for tourism activities. Slatina belongs to the municipality Laktasi and I think the municipality as a local community could do something about this, but on legal grounds. We do try to promote health and disease prevention, for example we presented our natural resources during the “Days of Tourism” held in Banjaluka. So it can be said that we do as much as the law allows us to, which is certainly not enough, but the law is inconclusive”, explained Dr. Jankovic.
It would be a shame for Spa Slatina to stay exclusively a medical institution because it also has a historical significance. Namely, its potentials were recognized by ancient Romans, this is supported by archaeological findings of Roman coins in Slatina’s water springs.
In Roman times, baths with mineral water were the center of social life. They were located in large palaces and become places of entertainment for all ages and social profiles. Maybe a similar destiny is intended for Spa Slatina, maybe it will one day be a recognized tourist destination in Srpska, a health oasis for those who wish to re-establish a balanced energy flow with the help of thermal waters and natural surroundings.