The beds, at Bishop's Castle Community Hospital, were shut 'temporarily' in October 2021 – but still sit unused today.
Residents of the town have mobilised to set up a campaign asking Shropshire Community Health Trust (Shropcom) to reopen the beds amid concerns they will be permanently closed.
This morning hundreds of people joined a march in the town in an effort to show the strength of feeling over the move, which they say is the abandonment of rural health services.
While protesters marched in the town, representatives from the campaign also attended Shropcom's board meeting in Shrewsbury, where they handed over a petition with 2,561 signatures.
It came as Shropcom had initially expected its board to take a decision on the future of the beds at the board meeting, which was planned to take place in Bishop's Castle.
However, that decision was postponed when the organisation said it was carrying out a review of its efforts to recruit staff for the unit, and the meeting was moved to Shrewsbury instead.
Not to be deterred, campaigners staged an 'empty chair' protest at the original venue for the meeting, Bishop's Castle Community College, after marching from the town hall.
Shropcom has argued that it cannot safely staff the beds, and says that it has been unable to recruit fresh staff – a claim disputed by the community which has described the recruitment efforts as flawed.
Nic Watson, a member of the Save our Beds campaign group, said the turnout for the march had shown the strength of feeling over the loss of the beds.
He said: "A lot of people are ardent campaigners who have been campaigning to save the hospital year after year after year. Some of them have been fighting for the hospital since the 1980s.
"It was good-humoured and good-spirited and very effective. We made our message very clearly."
He added: "We need a community hospital, not just for Bishop's Castle but for the wider area.
"It is really important and rurality is a real issue. We are rural and public transport is poor and if you have someone ill in hospital you want to be able to visit them – happier patients heal faster.
"If you have to do a round trip to Ludlow there is not even a bus to Ludlow from Bishop's Castle every day."
Bishop's Castle mayor, Josh Dickin, who presented the petition to the board meeting along with Dr Adrian Penney, a GP partner at Bishop's Castle Medical Practice, said the community did not want to be left "isolated" from health services.
He said: "I think the turnout today shows the strength of feeling, and I think the trust is starting to get that. There is a lot of community feeling about the hospital as well as wanting a vision for 21st century health care in Bishop's Castle.
"There is all sorts of family, staff, general love for the hospital. We just want it back open, we want the beds open and we want the care provision in Bishop's Castle to be up to scratch.
"We are a long way from Shrewsbury or Telford in terms of mileage so we do feel left out on a limb.
"When I handed over the petition I said we want to be listened to, and they said we are being listened to."
He added: "We have come a long way in a little time as a campaign and that is down to the hard work of people in the community, whether that's financially donating money to the campaign, sending emails, going out knocking doors, doing research – it has been a big community effort."
Councillor Dickin said there were major concerns over people's inability to visit people in other areas of the county due to a lack of public transport, with patients who would have been treated in the Bishop's Castle beds having been in Whitchurch, Bridgnorth, Telford, and even Aberystwyth in recent months.
Dr Penney said they were also sceptical over the way the recruitment efforts had been undertaken in a bid to reopen the beds.
He said: "I think the excuse of being unable to recruit is a false premise because I do think it was a faulty process, which has been demonstrated locally."
He added: "I think the main concern for the trust is about safety of staff and patients and they have not really addressed it for years until it suited them as a reason to close the hospital temporarily."
Patricia Davies, Chief Executive at Shropshire Community Health Trust said a decision on the beds would be taken next month.
She said: "Over the last several weeks we have carried out a series of engagement activities with the public regarding the temporary closure of the inpatient beds at Bishop’s Castle Community Hospital and are extremely appreciative of the local residents who have taken the time to take part.
"We fully understand the strength of feeling regarding the temporary closure of the inpatient beds and the importance of listening to and recording the feedback and opinions of the local community. The trust is aware of the march taking place in Bishop’s Castle and we have received the petition today ahead of our board meeting, the findings of which will be recorded as part of our engagement process.
"A decision on the Inpatient Service at Bishop’s Castle will be made at a Board meeting on September 7. The meeting is being conducted in public in Bishop’s Castle and we are happy for the public to observe the meeting. Our website will be kept updated with the details of the meeting and the papers for the meeting will be published on August 31."