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N.D. workers’ comp top doctor resigns

BISMARCK – The medical director of North Dakota’s workers’ compensation program, who complained in the past of efforts to influence his medical opinions involving workers’ claims, has resigned.

Dr. Luis Vilella wrote a letter of resignation Friday to Bryan Klipfel, director of Workforce Safety and Insurance, the workers’ compensation program, informing him of his resignation effective immediately.

“The decision to resign was difficult because I appreciate the experiences gained working with my peers and fellow colleagues at WSI,” Vilella wrote in his letter. He added: “I wish WSI every success in the future.”

Vilella, who does not have a listed phone number, could not be released Tuesday for comment.

Clare Carlson, deputy director of WSI, confirmed Vilella’s resignation and said there was no severance payment.

“WSI would also thank him for eight years of service,” Carlson said, but otherwise declined comment, citing WSI policy not to provide detailed comment on personnel matters.

Early this year, Vilella wrote a letter to Klipfel complaining that “the legal process overrides medical opinions” in the review of injured workers’ claims.

A copy of the Jan. 14 letter, obtained by The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead through an open records request, was heavily redacted. Vilella complained to Klipfel of “wrongdoing” and “misconduct” by lawyers for WSI.

Vilella also complained that he wasn’t asked for his input on a claim last November, and said he was repeatedly bypassed for his medical opinion.

Klipfel made no comment at the time, saying it was an “internal personnel matter.” Later, Vilella reported directly to Klipfel.

Vilella’s resignation came as WSI is undergoing an outside review of its claims process, including its use of so-called independent medical examiners hired by WSI to review injured workers’ claims.

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