Pregnant Inmates Released After CNMI Clinic Closures

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Hospital stops non-emergency care over payment issues

By Ferdie de la Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Oct. 10, 2012) – The Commonwealth Health Center's (CHC) closure of its clinics, including those that provide non-emergency prenatal care, has had an unexpected side effect: the release of pregnant inmates and their placement under house arrest.

Superior Court Associate Judge David A. Wiseman ordered yesterday the immediate release of two pregnant inmates from the Department of Corrections (DOC) after the government expressed concern that pregnant inmates cannot receive appropriate prenatal care.

The government also disclosed that the department does not have the proper nursery or separate facility that would be needed to house a newborn during a period of bonding between the mother and child.

Wiseman said that inmates Arinna Reiong and Norna Tipingeni will be placed under house arrest and they shall be confined to the physical boundaries of their homes. They are not allowed to leave the premises without approval from the Department of Public Safety.

Reiong and Tipingeni were among the five persons convicted of beating up a female cashier and two men at a store in Chalan Kanoa. The two were each sentenced in July to two years and six months in prison.

Reiong is now about nine months pregnant and could go into labor at any time. Tipingeni is about eight months pregnant and reportedly has a medical history of premature birth complications.

In his order for house arrest yesterday, Wiseman noted that CHC has recently denied non-emergency care to certain inmates at DOC due to the lack of payment.

Wiseman said these changes in CHC policy have prompted DOC to find other routes for medical care.

Wiseman said the government is equally unable to provide appropriate postnatal care for the mothers or their newborns.

The judge required the defendants to notify DOC within 24 hours of the birth of their child.

Six weeks from that date, Wiseman said, DPS shall escort the defendants back into DOC custody.

Wiseman said time served during house arrest shall count toward the defendants' total sentence.

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