published Friday, February 4th, 2011

Fuller Rehab closes; bank seizes assets


by Emily Bregel

ABOUT THE COMPANY

Fuller Rehabilitation Independent Living Aids was a provider of power wheelchairs and other mobility equipment, with seven locations in four states. It employed 82 people.

Struggling to cope with new federal regulations and burdened by too much debt, Ringgold, Ga.-based Fuller Rehabilitation has gone out of business.

The durable medical equipment company announced to employees last Friday that it would close its doors that day. Northwest Georgia Bank, its lender, has seized the company's assets.

"The family has been in this business for 21 years. They fought an incredibly hard fight to keep this business open," said Brent Beasley, former compliance officer for the company. He is the son-in-law of Mike and Leila Fuller, the Ringgold couple who owned Fuller Rehab.

The company owners secured jobs for 50 of their 82 employees with a consultant company they had hired, Beasley said. Before the business closed, the Fullers sent out final paychecks for hours worked the last two weeks of January, Beasley said.

But employees were angered to discover Thursday that direct deposits from their last paychecks had been retroactively removed from their bank accounts, apparently as a result of Northwest Georgia Bank's seizure of the company's assets, Beasley said.

"I was one of the ones surprised," he said. "I don't know exactly how that happened."

The company lawyer is looking into the situation, he said.

Officials with Northwest Georgia Bank could not be reached Thursday evening to comment on the paychecks.

But earlier Thursday, Scott Smith, the bank's president and chief operating officer, said he could not comment on the company's specific financial situation because of privacy regulations.

He emphasized that Northwest always tries to work with customers when they can't make payments on a loan.

"As a community bank, we go above and beyond and do all we can do for any borrower," he said.

In 2004, the Fullers donated $1 million to Hutcheson Medical Center's then-new cancer center, which was named the Mike and Leila Fuller Center for Cancer Care.

New federal rules require Fuller Rehab and other similar companies to offer their equipment for rent and no longer for purchase, Beasley said. The delay in payment for equipment rented out months ago wreaked havoc on the small business's cash flow this year, he said.

"They couldn't get the financing to continue on. We would have needed a good-sized loan to get us through the next 10 to 12 months, until those rentals started coming in," he said.

about Emily Bregel...

Health care reporter Emily Bregel has worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press since July 2006. She previously covered banking and wrote for the Life section. Emily, a native of Baltimore, Md., earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Columbia University. She received a first-place award for feature writing from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Contest for a 2009 article about a boy with a congenital heart defect. She ...

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Dreamerlou said...

Bad news for those who need wheelchair service! What is this federal rule about having to RENT a wheelchair? Most wheel chairs are made specifically for a person - special seat and supporting features. Feds need to stay out of deciding who needs what - it's a MEDICALL issue!

February 4, 2011 at 8:35 a.m.
alohaboy said...

Dream on Lou, the feds pay about half of all medical care. Would you say the same thing to BCBS?

February 4, 2011 at 9:26 a.m.
ceeweed said...

Renting medical equipment make sense if it is only being used until the patient's condition improves. Paying rent on an item that a patient will continue to use for life is stupid.

Example: A patient with sleep apnea needs a CPAP machine, The machine retails for $700.00, the insurance will not purchase the CPAP machine but it will pay rent on one indefinitely. The rental fee is $118.00 per month. $1416.00 per year, $14,160.00 over 10 years. That is what I mean by Stupid... No wonder health care costs are out of control!

I cannot believe the Fullers could not find an eager buyer for their business, especially a business with such a big profit margin.

February 4, 2011 at 9:50 a.m.
PhillipScott said...

This is a prime example of bad business practice in Chattanooga. How can a company not afford to to stay in business after donating 1 million dollars just 6 short years ago. No one looks to the future in this town. They are more worried about making thier name known and which mountain they are going to live on instead of focusing and planning for the future. It is not like these regulations went in overnight.

And quit dragging Northwest Georgia banks name through the mud. They are doing what they have to do. If your bank accounts are being seized, don't write payroll checks out them, boneheads.

February 4, 2011 at 12:09 p.m.
kk033131 said...

Fuller donated the million dollars but it was never paid in full. Only about 600,000 was paid, once again proving that is was all about paying to make themselves look good! It should be named,mike and gaye fuller owes millions of dollars to people all across the southeast cancer center. the employees also had money taken out of their last checks to pay for health insurance which got cancelled in January. that is more money that is owed to employees as well.

February 4, 2011 at 12:59 p.m.
smbed77 said...

It's funny to me how the Fullers were able to pay their employees on Friday when they claimed they were being bought out, yet 5 days later jerked our paychecks out of our bank accounts before they went and declared bankruptcy. All of their hard-working employees have paystubs which show that we EARNED and deserve that money, not to mention their commissioned employees who were the ones making the company money were behind in pay, still waiting on 2 additional paychecks that we will never see. How is that legal? Why blame the bank? Unless they are in cahoots with the Fullers, which they probably are. Employees of Fuller are now overdrawn in their bank accounts and its because of the lying crooks who own Fuller Rehab, all of whom claim to be God-fearing Christians who have forced their religious beliefs inappropriately upon their employees in the form of daily prayer requests and Bible verses attached to email correspondence. I hope they all get what they deserve for STEALING and LYING!

February 4, 2011 at 3:37 p.m.
fooledonce said...

As a former employee,I know what happened at this company and it had nothing to do with the new law of rental payments instead of purchase for power wheelchairs. This is solely about greed. When all of the people in management positions can afford to live in Windstone and drive BMW and Hummers and Land Rovers, while the hourly employees are telling management that the company can't afford to keep overspending, then there is something wrong with that "Christian" belief that God will take care of us. I guess if prayer could have saved us then all those prayer requests and bible verses by email did provide for someone..THE FULLERS.

February 4, 2011 at 4:37 p.m.
hollandmedical said...

Holland Medical has some positions to offer previous Fuller employees. Holland Medical is prepared to honor warranty work on Fuller wheelchairs for the patients.

February 4, 2011 at 4:47 p.m.

Cameron Company Medical Supply in Cleveland Tennessee began as a service/repair company and is now doing sales and service of all home medical equipment. Our number one priority is customer service. If any of Fuller's customers need service to their power mobility equipment please feel free to call Harry at the Cameron Company at 423-715-6590. We will be happy to help in any way possible.

February 4, 2011 at 5:30 p.m.
dude_abides said...

In keeping with the last two "comments" posted above, I have some old crutches and ace bandages and some wheels that might fit on a wheelchair and, well, all kinds of things I can sell you readers. I hate to make use of this terrible situation you workers have been put in for my own financial benefit, but I can't seem to stop myself from throwing an advertisement in here in order to scavenge on the remains of that money which would have been flowing into the Fuller concern. Call now, operators are waiting!

February 4, 2011 at 6:38 p.m.
kk033131 said...

Dude_abides.......Hmmmmmm

February 4, 2011 at 8:10 p.m.
medneedsco said...

Marketing/Sales positions are available for former employees at a Chattanooga HME company. Just mail your resume to Sales, P.O. Box 4408, Chattanooga, TN 37405 or fax to 423-267-7580.

February 5, 2011 at 6:19 p.m.
Karmawillgetyou said...

If you pay your family before you pay your supplier, you certainly won't stay in business! I went to work for Fuller Rehab in 2008 and on my first visit to the home office in Ringgold it bacame apparent to me that this company was "Top Heavy!" Every other desk in the building had a name plate on with last name "Fuller" and for MANY of those who didn't have the last name Fuller they too were somehow related to the Fullers.
I was cheated out of several hundred $$$s from expense reports over the last 18 months. Another thing that people need to know is that the money that MIKE FULLER took out of our bank accounts last week (February 3rd) was only a portion of what Mr. Fuller owes us from DECEMBER 2010! We are all still due three more pay checks in addition to what he stole from us last week. This means that we have been working for NOTHING since the end of November.
Mr. Fuller, Karma is going to be a very bad thing for you, Sir! You may think that the $12,000.00 per month that you are receiving from Orbit Medical is a good thing, but that KARMA WILL COME BACK AROUND! IT ALWAYS DOES! I hope that you can rest your head on your pillow at night! You have destroyed your own family, why would we employees expect any less of you than to destroy us too? The sad thing is that you and your family did this to the very people that gave you and your family all that you have, for without us you were nothing!

February 9, 2011 at 12:11 a.m.

Wheelchair and Scooter Repair is a national company specializing in repair and maintenance of power wheelchairs and scooters. We're fully prepared to offer repair service for any Fuller patients. We accept Medicare/Private insurance/ private party.

Please call us at 1-888-584-3095 if we can help.

February 10, 2011 at 6:09 p.m.
kowgirlkamp said...

This is very interesting and my heart goes out to those employees whose pay was messed with. How many sales people did they employ? How many people (besides management) did they employ? I hope these people can find work AND get their money due.

February 11, 2011 at 9 a.m.
kakoklas1218 said...

i was fired from fuller a few years ago w/ no explanation except that i was not making enough sales...when i had 10 contracts in front of me while on the phone with the "Christian" manager. i later found out from a friend that worked there that she was caught firing people and stealing their contracts. to my surprise...she was not fired, but relocated. any company that does not fire an employee for STEALING, in my opinion, must be thieves themselves. i do believe this is a case of karma. i have to have this odd period on my resume now thanks to this dishonest company. i don't feel bad for them at all.

May 6, 2011 at 11:28 p.m.
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