The Cherokee Nation is seeking $3.1 million from the Indian Health Service in an effort to help Indian hospitals facing budget cuts. Federally mandated salary increases and higher pharmaceutical costs are among factors that have left Claremore Indian Hospital and W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital in Tahlequah with severe budget deficits, tribal officials said. "These hospitals serve more than 400,000 people annually," Cherokee Chief Chad Smith said. "These are precious people, and it's vital that they receive the quality of their health care they deserve." Tribal officials said the money is necessary to meet funding needs for fiscal year 2000. Officials at Claremore Indian Hospital are expecting a $1.4 million deficit and could cut about 20 jobs from a staff of about 350 employees. Cherokee officials said the Tahlequah hospital also faces budget difficulties.