Gorliz Marine Sanatorium centenary

The centenary of the Sanatorium


This year 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of the emblematic white-and-blue Gorliz Hospital that rises above Gorliz Bay. On the occasion of the centenary celebration, we take this opportunity to tell you a little more about its history and how it has been changed together with Vizcaya society.

You can see here the video with Inma Galindez’s images and the video made by Esther Martinez, former worker and patient, respectively.

Here we leave you more old photos of the Sanatorium.

Initially, it was created for the treatment of childhood bone tuberculosis. Tuberculosis was a major burden at the beginning of the century and affected 7,5% of the population in Bilbao. Faced with this epidemic, the doctors of Bilbao Enrique Areilza and Luis Larrinaga and the provincial deputy Felipe Llano wrote a report in which they promoted the creation of a marine sanatorium for children, a proposal that was approved by the Diputacion (Bizkaia Government).

At that time there was not yet a medical cure with an antibiotic for tuberculosis, and sanatoriums emerged as treatment centres in temperate climates and favourable conditions for curing the disease. On the one hand, the sanatoriums isolated sick people from the rest of the population thus avoiding the cycle of transmission of the disease. They also provided rest, care and a supervised diet, in addition to the natural treatments they offered.

The doctors recommended Gorliz in particular as an ideal environment to build the sanatorium and offer a treatment of heliotherapy, which lies in exposing patients to the sun. Among the coastal villages, Gorliz stands out for being the town of the Bizkaia coast that receives more sun hours, which made it an ideal place for the treatment with solar radiation. Thanks to the climate and the sea breeze, the necessary conditions were created to strengthen the resistance and physiology of the little ones.

On the one hand, the sea regulated the temperature so that it did not have sudden changes that could harm the recovery. On the other hand, the sea breeze contributed to the constant renewal of the air, with a higher concentration of ozone and clean air. Hygiene was also part of the treatment of the sanatorium, as the living, working and habitability conditions in that time were difficult, in the midst of the industrial revolution.

In order for the sick people to benefit as much as possible from the natural conditions, the Sanatorium was built in parallel to the beach. This allowed the building to be open to the entrance of the sea air and allowed its circulation. The rooms were very spacious and had raised ceilings. The building was divided into two symmetrical halves with the boys on one side and the girls on the other one, divided according to their sex, and they had large balconies where the beds of the patients were placed for the heliotherapy treatment. Children laid in the sun for up to four hours a day to treat tuberculosis, especially bone tuberculosis, with solar radiation.

The Sisters of Charity were the first employees at the hospital.

We leave you the Video Mapping that was projected on the City Hall façade.

More about Gorliz Marine Sanatorium history…


The industrialization process:

At the beginning of last century, Vizcaya was facing several challenges, including the massive growth of inhabitants. In the early years of the twentieth century, thanks to the opening of Astilleros del Euskalduna and Altos Hornos, Bilbao became one of the largest industrial centres in the Peninsula; labour demand attracted thousands of people to the growing city, who crowded around industrial areas. In this environment there was a large number of people lived together, the spread of diseases was a serious problem, especially given that health and living conditions in this time were not the most appropriate. Moreover, modern medicine was recent, so there was no knowledge or cure for many of today’s treatable diseases.

The BT:

During the first half of the 20th century, a specific antibiotic was synthesized for the cure of tuberculosis. In addition, vaccination was discovered and extended since, in 1882, the scientist Robert Kroch presented to the Physiological Society in Berlin the tuberculosis bacillus which he isolated himself. The epidemic was gradually brought under control and the incidence of tuberculosis decreased.

Evolution of Sanatorium’s functions:

The Gorliz Sanatorium eventually ceased to function as a BT treatment centre. It currently offers a different service from the one that originally encouraged its creation. Today it is a centre dedicated to rehabilitation and palliative care within the Basque health network Osakidetza.


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