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.
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 ...