SPOKANE -

?Ominous? is the word being used by employees to describe the atmosphere at Sacred Heart Medical Center, where the hospital says the slumping economy is forcing layoffs.

The hospital reports it is $7 Million behind it's budget plan this year. It says fewer people are having elective surgeries and more and more uninsured people are showing up unable to pay for the care they receive.

Although Sacred Heart's profits are below expectations it is still making money. As of August the hospital?s profit margin was 2.8-percent. The budget however called for a margin of 3.6-percent.

?While these are challenging times in our nation and our community, Providence is dedicated to maintaining top quality care and service to our patients. In addition, Providence is committed to reducing the cost of care for all those we serve,? Providence Health and Services, the parent company of Sacred Heart, said in a press release Wednesday afternoon.

The hospital has confirmed that there will be layoffs, something that the Washington State Nurses Association says could be dangerous to patients.

?We don?t have extras period,? registered nurse Kathy Ormsby with the WSNA said. ?We are staffed very close right now so it?s hard to imagine how you could reduce further and still maintain a safe working environment for patient care.?

Staffing levels were one of several points of contention this last February during contract negotiations between the nurses union and Providence.

A lot of people working inside the hospital are worried about the layoffs because they don?t know what the layoffs will look like or how far reaching they will be. In April of 2009 Sacred Heart laid off 19 employees as well as froze senior executive pay and did not fill vacant positions.

Sacred Heart says they will notify employees who are losing their jobs either Thursday or Friday.